The Flatliners - Cavalcade
Release Date: April 13, 2010
Record Label: Fat Wreck Chords
As a reviewer and consumate professional (no snickering, please), it is my duty -- no, no, make that my responsibility -- to inform you, casual music nerd, about what you should and should not spend your hard-earned coins on. Like this site's neighborhood Spider-Man, I know that with great ability to earn advance copies of albums, comes great responsibility. Admittedly, I'm an optimist and I always look for the best things a record has to offer me before anything else. When it comes to the ever-popular and trendy task of reviewing punk rock, it can be a chore to browse the old Thesaurus to locate new synonymns for "bogus," "fantastic" or "Beringer." The Flatliners aren't reinventing any wheels; they're building crafty paper airplanes. It's music that won't take off your pants, fondle your privates and deshevel your hair, but you will enjoy seeing what it does to your senses for most of its 40 minute running time.
Perhaps on their third full-length, the band jinxes itself by leading off with four kick-ass tracks that literally make one want to circle pit in the middle of a crowded Wendy's (note: do not play first four tracks of this record while in a crowded Wendy's). "Carry the Banner" sets the tone by coming off as powerful as a stampede, but remains hopeful throughout; "The Calming Collection" kicks down the door and immediately falcon punches your face. Chris Cresswell gargles with rocks, so forgive him if not everything he says is articulate, but for what is understood, it's promising and a passionate reflection on maintaining a good spirit in tough times. That's one truly remarkable thing about punk rock these days: even if the music you're hearing is beating a dead horse in terms of how it's all put together, the words that eke their way out are always worth a listen. On the album's best cut, the Nard-Dog referencing "Here Comes Treble," Cresswell apologizes to the family he's ostracized ("I didn't mean to become a stranger") and on "Bleed," failure is celebrated for brighter days ("Don't keep the blood from rushing to my face, or keep the darkest days away").
The ska/reaggae/Rancid-esque roots that began to slow on 2007's The Great Awake are diminished even more here, and the only track that plays with such rhythm, "Here Comes a Jazzman," comes out of nowhere, and while "Shithawks" has a minor funk to it, the entire ska-agenda is stranded throughout the rest of the record. The album takes a wide left turn there and never quite recovers, despite its humble intentions. The tunes are hard-edged tales of getting drunk, fucking up and still keeping a good head about it all, but somewhere along the line, as nifty a theme as those all are, they stumble along to finish up the record. The first four songs are just so rambunctious and bombastic, anything in-between that drops the momentum for even a millisecond, throws the whole thing off-track.
An amplitude of gang vocals and hard-charged melodies, however, are sure to be the soundtrack to your next local fistfight with friends. "Liver Alone" does make you want to go a little shitfaced ("You've gotta drown it out and drain the memory"); and "Count Your Bruises" will likely make your recovery from the previous night's affair with a much bigger guy's boot to the face, easier to cope with. Though 40 minutes is a lot to handle from the Midwestern-themed punk rock the Flatliners are storming the gates with, check a couple off the tracklist for a surely boot-stompin' good time. Just make sure the boots stomp the yard, not your face.