We Are The Union - Great Leaps Forward
Release Date: March 30, 2010
Record Label: Paper+Plastick
Great Leaps Forward is an ambitious title for a sophomore LP, but heck, if you've got big enough stones to tip off your audience that "Yes, we're going to do the best job we can at stretching out the fabric we're using to sew this quilt" (psst, the quilt is a metaphor for their career)... then hats off. For these five Michigan fellers, the last couple years have been great leaps forward in themselves. Their debut album, Who We Are, was given away for free download on Purevolume (yes, it still exists), they were selected for our very own Absolute 100 and upon the brilliant move to spread the word through fans of bands like Less Than Jake, they managed to get their name recognized by LTJ drummer and label entrepreneur Vinnie Fiorello. Considering how similar We Are The Union mixes horns into their youth-oriented melodic punk rock, it was only natural to have Fiorello sign them to his imprint, Paper+Plastick.
For their second record, the band wastes no time in reeling you in, letting it be known this ain't your daddy's ska party (with apologies to Desmond Dekker). This is modern-day melodic punk with some horns thrown in merely to give it some flavor. LTJ comparisons aside, Great Leaps Forward manages to whip out 14 tracks in just over half an hour, weaving in and out of tall tales concerning growing up (both on the road and in Michigan), living fast and being with the ones you love. It's honest, genuine and there are no theatrics or explosions or concepts to distract from what the record really is: an inspired, heartfelt album that appeals to the band's own generation of young Midwesterners who affectionately love to play music (listen to "Curtain Calls" for a tutorial on the band's philosophy).
Like a rock opera without a whole lot of bells and whistles, each track seamlessly crosses over into the next, making this thirty-five minute seminar a ride you'll have to go back and experience almost immediately. "We Don't Care If Yesterday Burns; Stoke Up the Fire" plays on ska conventions and delivers beat-driven verses that serve as an anthem to the band's lifestyle. "Start Over Starting Over" and "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea" (the album's most slow-paced numer) are about as close to traditional ska as the band gets, but despite whatever your feelings on the genre-style might be, We Are The Union never make you feel like you're listening to a ska or punk rock record exclusively; it's a new movement for the punk landscape that isn't quite LTJ but isn't exactly Lifetime either. Dropping power chords, horn-soaked back rhythms and inter-changing vocals (it's like a chant-fest in here!), it contains a basement-show feel all while contributing a record that introduces itself to you, charms your ears and leaves before you have the chance to tire of its company.
"I can't stop this freight train feeling coming over me," shouts vocalist Reed Wolcott on the album's most melodic number, "Rearranging Deck Chairs on the Titanic." It's merely the first sign on what's to come, as the band continues to pummel you with melodic confessions that never let up. While there are certainly some interesting notions brought up (the refrain in "Glaring Teeth" seems to be a bit overstated), the record doesn't ask much from its listener. Open up your ears, let the record take you in, and once you catch your breath... go back and re-live it. There's a pleasant sense of joy, honesty and all-around good intentions surrounding Great Leaps Forward, and with the current wave of bands making music this sincere... it allows you to forgive the few mishaps that come along the way. "I will fight the good fight, and I'll fight it my own way," Wolcott sings on "Five Out of Five Kids Who Kill, Love Slayer." Believe it -- they're doing both ska and melodic punk a favor, and giving them a war to wage with a whole new set of ears.
Good review. I think the fact that they are a melodic pop-punk band that imbues their music with elements of ska really helps. I couldn't stand ska bands that put terrible melodic punk riffs through their music. The majority of the time it just wouldn't work.