I’m going to start with a bit of a huge mea culpa that’s owed to the Get Dead boys.
The San Francisco quintet’s latest full-length, Honesty Lives Elsewhere, was released back on July 29th, and marks their second full-length for Fat Wreck Chords. It made its way to my inbox and immediately rocketed toward the top of my eventual “Year End Ten Best” list…and then I totally spaced telling all of you how awesome and different and truly enjoyable it is. So, my apologies to Sammy and the boys (Mike McGuire and Moki Moreno on guitar, Tim Mehew on bass, Scott Powell on drums), because this album rules and you should all know about it.
Honesty Lives Elsewhere starts off with “Silence,” the chorus of which contains one of the more straight-forward punk efforts that you’ll find amongst the album’s dozen tracks, and finds frontman Sam King at his full-throated best, telling a tale of leaving a situation out of frustration and despair. King has the type of gravelly, sincere voice that lends instant honesty and credibility to the emotion he’s trying to convey, making the album’s title somewhat curious.
You see, Honesty Lives Elsewhere is one of the more brutally honest albums that you’ll find in this or any year. The honesty that the Get Dead boys are referring to, then, exists outside the lives of the depraved and at times degenerate characters whose stories they’re telling. Perhaps nowhere is that more apparent than on Side A’s closing track (and the album’s lead video), “She’s A Problem.” In just over 2.5 minutes, King and company give a no frills rundown of what it’s like to be stuck in love in a disastrous relationship (in this case, with a drug addict who uses sexual favors as a means to further her habit), and yet to feel unable to leave that relationship. Can you save her? Probably not. Is it your responsibility to save her? Probably not…but you love her anyway.
Side B’s closer, “Ordnance” is equally as poignant, though it’s much different sounding and finds King’s pen directed inward rather than outward as on “She’s A Problem.” The track begins with a simple yet somewhat hauntingly sparse piano line before King begins telling a story about sitting in a foxhole waiting for the enemy to strike. What starts seemingly as a song about the trials and tribulations of actual war quickly becomes something different, a metaphorical war that we wage when our backs are against the wall and we’re faced with a ‘fight or flight’ decision.
King’s voice is perhaps at its most raw and pained than in “Dyin’ Is Thirsty Work,” a three-minute track that is somewhat difficult to classify from a sonic perspective (a recurring theme with Get Dead…more on that later), to the extent that you find yourself more than a little concerned for his well-being when he’s gutterally conveying that he’s got a “sneaking suspicion that the walls will keep caving in until the pressure kills” him. Yet the track ends with a bit of a hopeful tone that finds us as listeners searching for stable, solid ground.
Produced by Fat Mike and the band, Honesty Lives Elsewhere plays as a focused, cohesive follow-up to 2013’s Bad News, and honestly blows that debut Fat Wreck release out of the water. The tempo and style changes throughout the album keep Get Dead from being pigeon-holed into any one genre, and reflect what can only be described as a sound reminiscent of whatever the outcome would be if the Swingin’ Utters and The Falcon had a coke-fueled orgy behind a dumpster in a California parking lot. There are hints of skate punk and post-punk and acoustic or folk punk or whatever we call it now, plus the above-mentioned piano driven ballad (for lack of a better term, though I’m sure there is one). “Grandiose,” a personal favorite, showcases some of King’s former musical life as a bit of a rap artist, with him laying tongue-twisting staccato lyrics over a pseudo-ska upbeat verse. And don’t worry, the lyrical content isn’t TOTALLY about people ruining their lives or the lives of others. “Monte Carlo” is a veritable ode to growing up on the wrong side of the tracks and finding unity in some of the reckless behaviors of our younger days.
All in all, Honesty Lives Elsewhere is one of the most enjoyable albums of the year, and it may not even be that close. The varied sounds and tempos make the album almost endlessly listenable on a loop, because it never falls victim to relying on a certain formula to keep the listener interested. And yet, it all sounds cohesive and flows seamlessly, a credit to the fellas’ myriad influences and the conviction they play with. Honesty certainly lives within the dozen tracks here; it might be intense and gut-wrenching and painful and more than a little uncomfortable, but it’s also no less than perfectly, enjoyably honesty.
4.5 / 5 Stars