“Old Fires New Frontier”, the second full length album from San Diego three piece Caskitt, is bound to create a rift in punk rock, or at least make waves. Some of us asked for Caskitt, and we were given Rise Against, where as others asked for a new At The Drive In record and were given Caskitt. Is it straightforward punk rock? Is it post-hardcore? Is it neo-shoegazing-melodic-emo-crossover? Lucky for Caskitt, punk rock has never been opposed to churning out and bending genres. “Old Fires New Frontier” doesn’t fit anywhere… but that isn’t a bad thing. Caskitt borrows from a handful of other bands, all of which can be picked out unmistakably at times. As aforementioned, Caskitt is a three piece, and a unique one at that. Fronted from the back by Drummer/Vocalist Matt Caskitt, and backed up by the boys up front, guitarist Steffen Long and bassist Jesse Hernandez. Now, a brief word or two about the record:
The albums first track “Blinders” couldn’t be a better choice for the opening track. A heavy hitting, thrashy intro, almost reminiscent of something you’d hear from one of the “Big Four” bands immediately sets the tone for the record: heavy. The lone verse of the song is a commentary on conformity and society’s propensity to blindly follow the mainstream. The song caps off at 1:40, with the repetitive chorus “Take those blinders off”. Simple, and to the point. “Blinders” seamlessly transitions into the title track “Old Fires New Frontier”, a look at the topic of immigration and America’s false claim to be the great melting pot, calling out the opposition by stating “You’re on the wrong side of history.” We take a turn with track three, “Serendipity City”, trudging into love song territory. This is where we first question Caskitt’s direction. This song is ripe for sad, sixteen year old girls that miss their boyfriend. It’s a song you’ve heard before, you know, the one about being far away from the one you love. Then again, Matt Caskitt even fesses up in the song “I was never good at writing love songs”. Steffen Long’s solid riffing throughout the tune is clearly the highlight of this song. Track four “Hang my head” takes us back into social commentary, shining a light on America’s youth, and the bitter future ahead. With a satirical undertone, the lyrics point out serious problems, fantastic for any Propagandhi fan, but unlike most propagandhi songs, you won’t find any catchy hooks in this one. As it’s tough to really grab ahold of, you may end up skipping this one. Our next song “Crimes” starts out with a flanged-out, psychedelic guitar intro. The guitar is shortly joined by ghostly, moaning vocals. It’s at this point that I wanted to immediately skip the track, but I didn’t have to… the song was over. Am I just a narrow minded, punk rock elitist? Quite possibly (most likely), but I certainly didn’t sign up for this. We’re then taken into track six, a far cry from that last artistic effort; “Short Shorts” takes a poignant look at rape and abuse. It’s a heavy song with a heavy subject matter. Highlighted by female harmonies and backing vocals, I’d much rather say this is a poetic stance on an important subject. The song ends with the lines “boys will be boys will be boys will be boys. Don’t believe that lie, it’s just fucking noise”, an explicit order, not to be taken lightly. Track seven “Someone Somewhere” stays on course, commenting on the vicious circle of poverty and unemployment that so many struggle with these days. Apart from the Radiohead-esque intro and whimsical indie breakdown, the song is solid. It makes a good point and is relatively easy to sing along to. When listening to track eight, “Niemolers Regret”, I initially thought I might have been listening to the wrong record. The intro, once again, tries to throw you off with something that is incredibly far from punk, and I’ll even go as far as to say that you aren’t crazy if you mistake this for a Fun song (the “Some Nights” guys)… yeah. Unsurprisingly, the song transitions into a heavier format. Ironically, by following in Fun’s footsteps, something magical happened: Caskitt created somewhat of a sing-along. Easily the album’s catchiest song, and once again politically charged, this tune is my one “don’t skip” of the record. Our next song, “Empty Chairs” seems to be a personal story about the loss of a close family member. The passion can be felt through the lyrics, but is also reflected through the sound. Though the instruments are cranked up, the tone can be more likened to the emo genre as opposed to punk or hardcore. Unfortunately relatable to many, the lyrics will still strike a chord with most listeners. “Villains” and “Devil in the Moonlight” are the next two tracks (ten and eleven, respectively). We’ve reached the end of the record and we’re given two songs that we’ve already heard; fluctuating melodies that have no actual direction, and heavy, fuzzed out instruments. Maybe they’d make good background songs when you’re folding your laundry, but other than that, cap it off at “Empty Chairs”.
There’s absolutely no denying that the musicianship is spot on. With strong vocals, tight drumming, pounding bass and stellar guitar, skill is certainly not lacking. Though, despite the talent at hand, “Old Fires New Frontier” slightly misses its mark melodically, but the passion for social commentary and personal reflection is clear and present. These guys aren’t faking it. Caskitt is still a young band, based out of a great city, and it will be with time that the sound will grow out of its identity crisis… or perhaps it will continue on its schizophrenic path, further molding an identity that says, “Fuck uniformity”, which may be exactly what we need. Either way, I don’t think we’ve heard the last of Caskitt, and I for one would love to hear what they have to offer next.