On paper, Chicago’s Treasure Fleet sounds like a jaded punk rocker’s wet dream. And when the band’s line up feature members of The Arrivals, Sass Dragons, Smoking Popes, and The Lawrence Arms, it’s easy to understand where that conclusion comes from. But when it comes to the execution, Treasure Fleet falls a bit short of their reputation. Rather than having some kind of scratchy and raw punk rock orgy, the bands members have come together to create something completely out of left field: a psychedelic pop rock album. You read that right. Treasure Fleet has more in common with the music of the ‘flower power’ generation than the PBR-guzzling crowds of today. And it’s weird. Weird.
To add more weirdness to the mix, the band’s newest album, Future Ways is their second album, but it’s also their first. Future Ways was recorded before the band’s spring 2012 debut, Cocamotion, was released but due to reasons out of the band’s control the album was shelved until now. Regardless of whatever “the old stuff” is, Future Ways is just as good of an introduction to the band, and their core sound.
Future Ways has a noticeable lack of distortion in its instrumentals. The guitars are all very clean sounding, and drums are nice and airy, the bass is bouncing but never “in-your-face” bouncy, and the vocals are soft and sweet. If it wasn’t for the band’s pedigree, there would be absolutely nothing “punk” about this album at all. The album has a lot more in common with the more experimental sides of both The Beatles and The Who; while listening to a majority of the album it’s not that hard to imagine the band dressed up in a vibrantly colored (meaning lots of yellow, and bright blues, greens, and reds) marching band-esque get up.
Visions of Yellow Submarine aside, the music on Future Ways isn’t all that bad. It’s not very “punk” at all, but the songs all still have that element of pop and melody that make all of the member’s main projects so well received (particularly the Smoking Popes, whose sound is the closest to Treasure Fleet’s although it’s still not quite close to being on the same level). There are still catchy toe-tappers such as the bouncy “Fat Ones” or the carnival-like chorus of “Saxxa”, and the more rocking “Future Ways”, “Lovers Arms”, and “I’ve Lost My Everything”. However, the album’s true highlight is the titular “Treasure Fleet”. It recalls The Beatles even more than the other ten tracks, but the balance between the weird and disjointed verses and the uniform and loud choruses works incredibly well.
Even if Treasure Fleet’s members weren’t all from various Chicago punk bands, Future Ways probably would still be a weird aural journey. It’s almost like someone traveled back in time and altered history so that punk rock never really existed. That’s kind of a frightening thought, so let’s all be glad that Treasure Fleet is a side project meant for the members play a different style of music than they usually do, rather than portraying the shape of punk to come. On the plus side, now there’s a punk-related album that parents might “get”.
RIYL: The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper, The Who’s Tommy, Smoking Popes’ Destination Failure