Label: Ruined Smile Records
On the whole, punk rock is a game for the young. The energy, attitude, and general aesthetic of the vast majority of the genre screams “youth”. There’s some exceptions to this though, with bands drawing upon the legacy of post-punk to create something that, whilst still fitting within the broad spectrum of punk, offers something deeper, more mature and reflective than what is standard. Moral Straightjacket are one such band, taking clear inspiration from the likes of Self Defense Family both in sound and lyrical approach, to produce something on this self-titled tape that is comparable to said band without ever sounding like a mere copy or imitation.
Combining their self-titled and Behind The Orange Curtain EPs, this tape successfully combines the energy of punk rock with an introspective maturity that can be traced back to Revolution Summer bands, both in sound and approach. There’s something warm and comforting about the sound of these songs, both in terms of production and the atmosphere they create. That’s in contrast to the lyrical content, which deals with some of the darker, more bleak sides of adult life. Opener “Kona Dreams” paints a picture of feeling lost, and “Temple Solution” tells a story of an isolated sleep/work/eat routine, wearing down the subject, that hits a little too close to home. The three tracks from Behind The Orange Curtain take a slightly different approach, equally heavy in their emotional content, but doing so from the perspective of a Russian Priest in the 19th centruy. They remind me of Policy Of 3 or some of Moss Icon’s lyrics, albeit without the same pretentious aura those bands could sometimes lapse in to.
Musically, the band are plainly comparable to Self Defense Family – or, more accurately, to their You Are Beneath Me album, released under the End Of A Year moniker. Largely mid-paced, with a strong sense of melody in both guitars and bass, the focus is largely on the vocals and lyrics, but there’s still plenty going on behind them to get excited about. “Kona Dreams” features a fairly basic but hard hitting pattern between guitars and drums that is repeated to great effect, and “12/28/71” has a deeply melancholy air to it. “Irvine Problem” demonstrate that the band are equally adept at playing at speed, whereas closer “Brittle Bone” is wonderfully ambitious, using space in an almost suffocating manner, immensely heavy in aura and emotion rather than simple volume.
This is a very different take on punk rock to the Ksilema release I reviewed recently (also put out by Ruined Smile Records), but it’s every bit as good. It does require a certain mindset to fully enjoy, but if you’re anything like me – listening to music after coming home from a long day at work, doing a job you can’t say you enjoy that has you feeling slightly trapped – then it’s sure to hit the spot. Hell, “Temple Solution” might just be one of my favourite songs I’ve heard this year. Recommended for those of you who like their (post)punk to have some real depth to it.