For those who find their knowledge of the current European punk rock scene sufficiently lacking, Tommy Gun are a five-piece outfit from the Austrian countryside. Their latest release is the full-length “Always True,” and consists of twelve songs sung entirely in English. I’ve made my personal feelings about foreign bands singing their songs in English fairly apparent lately, though “Always True” is a solid release that gives hope to the scene.
Tommy Gun’s formula is simple: straight forward, honest-to-goodness punk rock featuring two distorted guitars and snarly vocals combining over a solid rhythm section (rock steady drums and fairly melodic bass lines), a la Strung Out, older Bouncing Souls, more recent Social Distortion or The Darlings. Real solid, enjoyable stuff.
The music definitely carries that majority of the weight on “Always True.” Album opener “Carry Me Through” has a slow buildup that leads into a modern Social D style punk tune. It is so reminiscent of Social D, in fact, that on the handful of occasions that this song has come on while I had my music on repeat, it took until the vocals kicked in for me to realize what I was listening to. “Purpose & Decay” is about representing the punk rock ethos and hanging out with the fellas. The call-and-response portion of the pre-chorus (“I know / I know / I know / I know / We know”) comes across corny, but not enough to detract from the rest of the song. “Brutal, Rough and Dirty” sticks to the same formula, with a style similar to the punkier end of the Rancid catalog.
Halfway through the album resides “Letter I’ve Never Sent,” which is an acoustic track about (you guessed it) a series of apologetic love letters that were never sent. It’s sort of a clumsy, throwaway song that registers fairly high on the unintentional comedy scale during the chorus (“Best regards from fucking me/signed with pride and dignity”). “All I Know” makes its home somewhere between early Blink 182 and early Social Distortion (complete with ‘ball and chain’ references in the lyrics).
Lyrically speaking, much of “Always True” is standard, younger street-punk band fare. The lion’s share of the material deals with common themes: unity, brotherhood, drinking, more drinking. As mentioned above, though, there is a fair amount of unintentional comedy involved. “My Soul For,” the album’s eleventh track, soars to higher unintentional comedy heights than most other releases are capable of. While it’s a strong, lead-guitar driven punk song, the chorus contains lines about selling one’s soul “for a six pack.” I know Austria produces some high quality beer, but this still seems as though it is setting the bar pretty low. After that, however, things take a weird turn. Consider this line: “We’re bigger than Jesus Christ and don’t give a fuck / I know he can suck my cock.” While it sounds offensive when written in black-and-white, when combined with the singer’s thick, gravelly accent, it merely comes across as silly. Eye-rollingly silly. I’ve taken some flack for bringing up the unintentional comedy thing before in relation to foreign bands trying to sing in English, but read that last line again. And again. Consider my case rested.
All things considered, “Always True” is a fairly enjoyable listen. It’s not going to be the missing link to complete your CD collection (you still have a CD collection, right?!?) and it isn’t a trailblazing, genre-shaping album by any stretch. But if you like your punk music straight-forward and with as few frills as possible, Tommy Gun are right up your alley.