Despite kicking around Cali since 1996 and self releasing a handful of records, Left Alone sprang into the wider punk consciousness in 2005, when their debut Hellcat Records release ‘Lonely Starts and Broken Hearts’ announced the arrival of what at first sounded like another in a long line of Rancid copies, something Hellcat is no stranger to. And while they weren’t as shameless in their attempt to emulate Armstrong & Co. as say, Time Again, the blueprint was there down to the finest detail. The record was a good one though and with every subsequent release, Left Alone sounded less and less like their famous forefathers, tweaking their unique brand of ska/reggae/punk/country tunes to ever more entertaining results. Plus, singer/guitarist Elvis Cortez started sounding less like he was trying to sound like Tim Armstrong trying to sound like Joe Strummer and began to come into his own on the mic. These elements came together most impressively on Left Alone’s 2009 self titled record, perfecting the sunny, ska-pop rhythms set against lyrics of desperation, depression and heartache, a dichotomy that has always been at the core of the band.
This cocktail is present in their new EP ‘Hate The Day’ which is less a progression of their sound than an extension or continuation of it.
The song ‘Hate The Day’ is a catchy, feel good sounding ska bopper with angry, feel bad lyrics. It has hip swinging bass lines, fast, upstroke guitars and some silky smooth organ. It’s the perfect summer song, if you ignore the message and ride the melody. The sentiments of the song are so simple, they’re almost silly; Elvis hates the day he met his ex, loves the day she left and doesn’t miss her. That’s it.
‘Stuck In A Haze’ is a straightforward punk rocker. I’m not exactly sure what it’s about, cruising around bored with nothing to do I guess. There are a handful of these puppies on every Left Alone record and they do them almost as well as they do the ska songs. Make no mistake though, Left Alone is a ska band first and foremost and it doesn’t take them long to get back in the skank of things with ‘Jen.’
‘Jen’ is almost certainly about the same person that ‘Hate The Day’ is about. A girl Elvis met ‘on the Horrorpops tour in 2005’ a tour which I was at. In some ways it’s one of the most optimistic and positive songs in Left Alone’s repertoire. Sort of. On the one hand, Elvis has resigned himself to the fact that nobody loves him, or ever will. On the other, he’s made peace with that, realizing that the only person he needs to love him is himself. It has a similar sound and feel as ‘Hate The Day,’ catchy ska punk that will stick to the insides of your head like peanut butter sticks to the roof of your mouth.
‘Wall Street’ on the other hand, is a rare foray for the band into politics, an indictment against the crumbling fat cat mentality and lifestyle of New York’s infamous financial epicenter and a call-out against police brutality. The song is noticeably harder than the rest of their stuff, a hardcore punk song that sticks out like a sore thumb in relation to the poppy ska and skate punk of the rest of the band’s catalogue, particularly from the ‘Lonely Starts’ record onward. It’s not a bad song at all, but not something that established fans will readily cling to.
Left Alone haven’t really gone anywhere since their eponymous 2009 high point, keeping themselves busy with compilation tracks and split 7” releases. But as their first official release on Hellcat in three years, one can only hope a full length isn’t far behind. The band do absolutely nothing new here, with the exception of the harder, more political ‘Wall Street’ and fans should relish the familiar ska and punk rhythms and broken hearted lyrical content the band is known for.
As fans of Pennywise will go to their grave telling you, sometimes not changing one iota is the best course of action a band can take.
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