Moonshine is the sophomore effort coming from the Golden State’s Strike Twelve. If you’re unfamiliar with them, Strike Twelve is a melodic skate punk band hailing Southern California. In other words, you know it’s going to be good. The songs average at around two and a half minutes in length, the guitars are aggressive a la Pennywise and the bass lays down an incredibly thick foundation in the vein of early Rise Against. Unlike those bands, however, Strike Twelve takes it easy on the politics for most of the duration on Moonshine, instead focusing their efforts on having a grand old time and personal reflections.
The album starts off on a heavy-handed note of self deprecation between the two opening tracks. From Toilet’s declaration of always finding a way to spoil anything beautiful, and The Long Tail’s refrain of “we can’t admit we’re just pieces of shit reaching out for something that we’ll never get”, Moonshine starts off as a very depressing album. Luckily things pick up with the third track, “The Beer Pong Song”, an ode to one of the biggest sports in the world of beer drinking. From there on the album is a mixed bag of fun party tunes (“San Francisco”, “No Means No”, “All-a-Riot”) and more serious and introspective tunes (“Unglued”, “Washed Away”, “The List”). The album never leans too heavily in one direction, and that helps to keep things fresh… although forty-five minutes does run on for a little long for the skate punk genre and cutting two or three tracks to save for a follow up EP or B-sides to singles wouldn’t have hurt Moonshine in the slightest.
In terms of musicianship, Moonshine is just as strong and diverse as the song-writing. Sure, a lot of the sounds are familiar (there are bound to be comparisons to almost any band from the 1990’s Epitaph roster), but the members of Strike Twelve are all talented enough to make the sounds of yester-decade work for them today in the modern age. The bass work on Moonshine is particularly impressive; many tracks taking full advantage of its powerful and deep voice (so to speak) – a staple of the heyday of melodic punk bands. That’s not to take away from the rest of the band: the guitars chug their way through verses and blare out solos at all the appropriate moments, and the drums set a steady framework in which the rest of the band can do their thing. Vocalist Matty T keeps the band grounded firmly in the genre with a voice that is reminiscent of Jim Lindberg, albeit of a slightly softer timbre.
In this day and age when every other punk frontman is ditching his band for an acoustic guitar, and Epitaph is signing bands that look like they piss neon glo sticks, it’s extremely comforting that Strike Twelve exists and that they have recorded Moonshine. It is bands and albums like these that helping keep punk rock alive and well; no schticks, no gimmicks, no haircuts, just good old fashioned songs about beer, insecurity, and persistent telemarketers.