Album Review: The Copyrights – “North Sentinel Island”

“North Sentinel Island” marks the fifth studio album from Southern Illinois punks The Copyrights. The band play it pretty true to their poppish punk roots, and in the process deliver arguably their best, most honest work to date.

Named after one of the more remote islands in the world (home to, at most, 400 people, all of whom have been essentially untouched by ‘modern’ society), “North Sentinel Island” gathers a lot of its lyrical content from traditional “punk rock” themes: hopelessness, isolation and  abandonment all factor into the equation pretty heavily. “How can we make this right/ When we can’t even speak at night/ We’re fucked beyond belief tonight” sing Brett and the boys over a pretty heavy rock riff that would make Dave Grohl proud on the album’s opening track, “Trustees of Modern Chemistry,” (the title of which is an incredibly awesome obscure reference).

The tales of hopeless wanderlust continue from there: “All of my crutches are breaking my bones” chime the band en chorus in the album’s second track, “Crutches,” backed by a more traditional melodic pop-punk tune. “Expatriate Blues” is a faster, more uptempo track featuring the line “I’m not homesick, I’m sick of home;” a line that perhaps best sums up the album’s theme better than any other. From the mouths of many of the other, less-mature bands in the game, a song about being “filled with more alcohol than blood” would sound obnoxious and overly hedonistic. There is a certain amount of introspective sincerity here, however, that makes it sound more cathartic than anything.

All hope is not entirely lost on the lads from Carbondale, however; a certain optimism continues to poke from between the clouds at times, not unlike the bread-and-butter themes found in most tracks by Face to Face or Alkaline Trio (without the macabre imagery). If the title of album closer “Hell Will Be Party Time” doesn’t convey this enough, “Worn Out Passport” deals with the desire to go to “places you want to go to surrounded by people you don’t know,” while attaching the disclaimer that the trip is “not self-destructive, this wish is filled with love.” “Scars” and “Never Move Your Back Row” even sound like vintage f2f or Alkaline Trio tunes.

The majority of “North Sentinel Island” will sound familiar if you’re a fan of either of the above-mentioned bands (or of Blink, Sum-41, Teenage Bottlerocket, The Darlings, etc). Not familiar in a bad, “I’ve-heard-this-all-bef0re, write-a-new-song-already” fashion, though. The Copyrights bring a sound that fits like an old pair of Chuck Taylors or a vintage baseball glove: tried and true and tested by time. Some tracks (“Bow Down” and “Restless Head” specifically) are a little too poppy for my own personal tastes, but the remainder hit much harder and keep the album moving steadily forward. “Expatriate Blues,” “The New Ground Floor” and “Well-fed and Warm” all pack a particularly high octane punch, while the riffs in “Trustees of Modern Chemistry” and “20 Feet Tall” are among the catchiest the band has produced to date.

Nobody is going to accuse The Copyrights or reinventing the pop-punk wheel, though I’d argue that it isn’t a wheel that even needs re-inventing. Their level of unpretentious honesty shows that there are a lot more miles left on these tires, and that you really should be along for the ride.

“North Sentinel Island” is due out on August 9th via Red Scare Records.

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