Go ahead, say it out loud: Punk. While it might technically be a four-letter word, it is no longer a four-letter word in the get-your-mouth-washed-out-with-soap category. And Much The Same aren't anything else but punk. No unnecessary screaming; no white belts and bad haircuts; no awkward mosh parts; this Chicago quartet are simply straightforward, faster-than-the-world punk rock, tailor-made to shred bowls or start circle pits to. And trust us, you'll want to be doing both after a few spins of their new album, Survive.
Originally formed in 1999, MTS have lived up to their new album's title, having survived more than their fair share of lineup changes, the most recent being drummer Jevin Kaye coming into the fold in 2004. "Jevin's speed was initially his biggest asset," says bandleader Gunner McGrath. "I've only seen a couple drummers play faster than him. Over the past year, he's also been contributing great music and lyrics to the songwriting process."
Of course, one of the biggest endurance tests MTS have undertaken was the seemingly endless process of creating a follow-up to 2003's A-F Records-released Quitters Never Win. What took so long? "One of our biggest hurdles was that I had--and still have--pretty severe writer's block," McGrath says. "I wrote most of the last record, so after a year or so of very little new music coming out, we realized we were all going to have to work a lot harder." And work harder they did, with each of the members buckling down and "re-learning how to write and work together," McGrath says. "It was a tough process, but in the end, it was well worth it."
One listen to Survive affirms that statement. A much more diverse offering than Quitters Never Win, due to the shared songwriting duties and guitarist Dan O'Gorman's wide range of influences, Survive has "songs that are faster than ever, slower than ever, more pissed, and more happy," McGrath states. Kaye's speedy chops take MTS to new levels of thrashability on "Wrecking Ball," a gang-vocal-heavy rocker reminiscent of fellow Chicago scenemates Ryan's Hope. Both frenetic album opener "The Greatest Betrayal" and epic closer "Picking Up The Shattered Pieces" recall vintage Rise Against, with machine-gun drumming and appropriate breakdowns powerful enough to throw a 10,000-strong crowd into a frenzy, but the band are right there to cool things off with solid midtempo numbers like "For Those Left Behind" and "Stitches," as well as guaranteed sing-alongs ("Skeletons" and "What I Know") that will make you think Millencolin's Nikola Sarcevic is fronting No Use For A Name at their mid-'90s peak.
Lyrically, bassist Franky Tsoukalas, Kaye, and McGrath spend much of the album focusing on the improvement of self, friendship, and their struggles in the music industry. "Our lyrics are very personal and introspective," McGrath explains, "I think inner dissent is at the core of the human experience; it's what makes you a better person."
Alongside their Nitro Records label-mates A Wilhelm Scream, No Trigger and Crime In Stereo, Much The Same are doing everything they can to bring back substance over style to the underground. "There are a lot of things that are more important than your clothes," says McGrath, "and I think a lot of bands out there are just selling an image right now, portraying that looks are what matter. It's everything we're against, and if we have to tear it down from the inside, so be it." With that attitude, McGrath channeled his frustration into the minute-long frenzy of "Living A Lie." "In some ways, it feels like the most important song I've ever written," he says, "because I hope some kid hears it and says, 'Wow, this is totally true; I don't have to care what everyone thinks, I should be making changes that make me happy.'"
Survive signals a milestone for the band, but also a new beginning--one which they've been working for since their 1999 inception. The album sounds poignant, impassioned and frankly, important. Punk rock needs songs like the ones Much The Same are writing: energetic and in your face while still being meaningful and personal. With Survive, Much The Same haven't merely made a record--they've made a statement.