Album Review: Travis James & the Acrimonious Assembly of Arsonists / Diego Galvan- ‘Hostility // Heartbreak

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As long as I have known the enigmatic Phoenix folk-punk Travis James, he has been threatening to retire from songwriting and performing, and yet still here he is with a fresh new offering in the form of a split EP with his co-conspirator Diego Galvan. The two crusty buskers have been carrying on a social media bromance for more than a year now, so it makes perfect sense that they’d decide to band together for a team-up record.

Hostility/Heartbreak is a noisy little 8-song album where both James and Galvan lay bare some raw emotions, and it really shows through on their well recorded (for folk-punks) EP.

The record starts off very punchy as most James recordings tend to with the track “Enough.” The song is upbeat and drum-driven with Aaron Hjalmarson turning in a stellar percussion performance while James’s brilliantly simple lyrics make it meaty enough to grasp on to. “I’m setting out to prove that I’ve got nothing to prove, and I’ll prove it, don’t assume it’s got something to do with you,” says James in the track’s chorus as his almost supervillain-like cackle rises above the thunderous cacophony made by his Acrimonious Assembly of Arsonists.

But as punchy as “Enough” is, the fiercest fighter on the record might just be the the third track “Like it or Not,” where James seems to shed his persona as the Penguin of Punk and takes on a sound best described as the Oogie Boogie Man of Anarchy. The track is a huge accordion-driven show tune, brought to life by TJAAA’S own Voldemort of the keys Mark Sunman and delivered masterfully. The song also satisfies James’ tradition of having a waltz on every album.

Galvan brings a little less of the World Inferno/Friendship Society side of folk-punk and a whole lot more of the Johnny Hobo side. There is much less musicality and far more lyrically driven tunes banged out on an acoustic guitar. While James is an over-the-top cartoon character when he is inside of his songs, Galvan is as much an everyman as one can possibly be.

The Heartbreak side of Hostility/Heartbreak is a pretty minimal piece of music. It’s just Galvan on guitar and vocals, some percussion, and a female backing vocalist, but it’s beautiful in its simplicity; the young punk really shows off some songwriting chops and a knack for arranging a great pop song.

This first taste of Galvan comes off as an homage to his folk-punk forebears, but it also hints at tremendous upside for a young artist who is just getting going on his musical path.

4/5 Stars


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