Strung Out - Agents of the Underground
Record Label: Fat Wreck Chords
Release Date: September 29, 2009
The guys in Strung Out might have an average age of something like 40, but they sure don't act like it. Agents of the Underground might be their 7th album pushing the punk rock/metal sound, but it sure doesn't sound like it. Some see the death of punk rock as being upon us, but listening to this album, it most definitely does not look like it. Despite having been around for 18 years, Strung Out continue to blare their anthems and savage riffs as audaciously as ever. Tacit warning: Agents of the Underground makes it hard not to unsheathe those fists and pump along.
And it's all because the songwriting epitomizes veteran consistency. The production leaves room for critics to find a bone to pick - Jason Cruz's vocals sound a little muffled - but it's all ear candy besides that. Opener "Black Crosses" is a wild attention-grabber, whereas "The Fever and the Sound" bores a dark chorus into your memory. "Agents of the Underground" and "Jack Knife" are heavier songs; the former borders on metal and the latter almost recalls Rise Against. "Ghetto Heater" and closer "Andy Warhol" are poppy in melody structure, and "Vanity" is outstandingly catchy.
There's something ominous about the album beyond its straight forward punk rock sound, though. "So stand up brave and kiss goodbye any chance we'll live forever," signs Cruz on "The Fever and the Sound," "My sweet black Maria surrender / Never let this place go without a fight / Before we all go down forever." "Dead Spaces" proclaims "I don't wanna believe in love / Anxiety of a future we cannot command too broken for the test, too toxic for a stand / So I laid down and lost myself to things I could not live down" amidst deep, rolling drums. Sounds like plenty is amiss in the world of Strung Out.
Yet, there isn't quite enough amiss musically to put aside Agents of the Underground. Fans of Strike Anywhere, NOFX and contemporary punk with metal tendencies have and will swallow this whole, so don't let yourself miss out on what was one of the sharpest discs of 2009. "Andy Warhol" describes the album perfectly: "So light a fire, leave it all behind / Hit the road and lose your mind!" Here's to many more years of Strung Out.