The Downtown Struts’ wanderlust is contagious. The way they tell it, traveling isn’t just sight seeing, it’s adventure incarnate. Unlike the majority of punk that focuses on escaping, The Downtown Struts are more preoccupied with experiencing. Hailing from Chicago, the band plays a melodic rock and roll infused brand of punk that charms with its exuberance. The extended version of Sail the Seas Dry features seven songs, two of which were previously unreleased. And as far as experiences go, few of mine have been as instantaneously gratifying.
Any urgent and volatile melody has to have words to give its direction purpose. Otherwise its impact is softened, forever doomed to be a couple of hummed lines without meaning or catharsis. On Sail the Seas Dry, The Downtown Struts make use of the sometimes forgotten art of lyricism by crafting something of a concept album. As soon as the record begins to spin, they thrust the listener into their restless punk rock travelogue. With lines like “Another skyline is on my mind, another dream to take hold away from California sunshine,” it’s established early on what kind of record this is. It’s not bitter, it’s not violent; it’s not angsty. Compared to so much of punk rock, the energy doesn’t come from a place of anger, but of honest excitement and optimism. Of course, that’s not to say the entire album is a happy-go-lucky lyrical ride down the open road. Many emotions are traversed, and the wanderlust becomes less of a centerpiece than a framing device. On the original issue of the EP, the album would end with the song “Not Sorry,” which not only acts as a counterpoint to the opening track but also ends perfectly with the album’s title, but seeing as this is is an extended reissue we’re treated to two new songs. While I’ll never be one to complain about extra music, “Not Sorry” ends so perfectly that it almost feels like a shame to keep things going any longer.
To the credit of Sail the Seas Dry, the intensity never lets up. There’s something refreshing in that fact. So many albums feel the need to throw in slow songs or other distractions, it feels like a move of confidence when The Downtown Struts never let the tempo slow. The confidence isn’t unfounded though, the songs on Sail the Seas Dry are some of the catchiest I’ve heard. Each track is able to stand on its own, without fear of blending in. “Little Mexico” might just be my favorite of the bunch; the vocal hooks and lead guitar melodies, along with the general composition make it a stand out track that refuses to leave my head.
Sail the Seas Dry is a fantastic EP, and I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys fast, melodic punk rock. The Downtown Struts are one of those happy discoveries that make you glad music still exists on a smaller scale. They’re the type of band that write songs so instantly catchy, that you swear to yourself that you’ve heard them before. At worst they’re plagiarists, erasing my vast caverns of obtainable musical memory with alien science. At best, they’re just a really good band. Check out Sail the Seas Dry and decide for yourself.