Have you ever burned out on your go-to punk genre and decided to listen to something else for a bit? Recently, I chose to branch out and try some different genres as a Punk Palate Cleanser. A friend who is into progressive and indie-punk recommended Philadelphia’s Modern Baseball. It wasn’t too long into my musical jaunt that I realized that perhaps the Indie side of the pool was a little too deep for me. However, before pulling the rip cord, I stumbled upon a link for Steady Hands the side folk punk project of Modern Baseball’s Sean Huber and more specifically his sophomore album The Libertines. Ever since, it has become a regular on every single one of my playlists.
The recurring theme of this four song EP released in early 2013 in a very broad sense, is getting back to your roots. He reaches beyond just remembering back to childhood, although that is also a strong motif, but also delves into his roots musically, genealogically and ethnically. Each song is a vignette, loosely related to one another, that paints an overall picture of this personal odyssey. It’s not an actual narrative with a defined plot like Fucked Up’s David Comes to Life, but that’s because the trek into one’s past isn’t as tangible as a life event like death or finding love. It doesn’t have a script that it can follow. Even though it’s not a cohesive story with established characters, you still walk away with a clarity and understanding of what the author intended.
The first leg of his journey, “I Swear Like a Sailor” opens as any great exploration does, with a sense of travelling and as the name would suggest, it is littered with nautical themes: “Tell the crew to get ready, they’re in for the ride of their lives. Holding your arms as I stare into your Dramamine eyes. I saw this storm coming, I watched it damn near every night.” As harsh as the North Atlantic Ocean can be, it pales in comparison to how turbulent an expedition into one’s past can be. Mistakes, regrets, deaths, the things pushed back in the recesses that scare you the most., these are all things that keep a weaker person from diving back into their past too deeply. But thinking back through history, every epic sojourn has been painful and arduous. Personal discovery is no different.
The second track feeds off of this tumult a little more with “Footsteps.” It focuses on the protagonist’s childhood and his absent father who worked extremely hard and as such couldn’t be around enough for his family. It goes deeper into the latter parts of his father’s life and the gradual decent into illness and further on to death. From that death, it impacts him greatly and he comes to realize how hard working and proud his father was and that he carries that lineage with him.
Next up is the title track “The Libertine.” Our protagonist has now landed in his family’s homeland of Ireland. As someone who doesn’t get home much, I can tell you that there is a certain fervor that comes with returning home after a long absence. Being surrounded by safe, familiar places and people can energize you in a way that other places just can’t. I take it by the author’s lyrics that Ireland causes quite a bit more of this fervor than my trips back to NC. “You can cut out my heart, bury into the ground. It will burn these bodies, keep sinking on down. ‘Till it reaches the garden and passes through hell. And it keeps on still beating through this ancient town.”
The final song in the saga, “Song For Rosemary,” explores roots beyond just the ones bound by blood or a flag. Musically, we’re shown some of the influences and genres of music that have inspired our paragon of reflection. “So to Westy, Jim Lockey, The Starters, and Stu. You gave punk rock so punk rock I gave you. To the girls down at Lockdown, I toast you every night. Hope you’re making me proud keeping this scene alive.”
A fifteen minute album that spans centuries. Through one man’s self reflection we get a view into the makings of a regular, dedicated, hard working guy. The tone of the album flows harmoniously from harder, upbeat, vocal chord shredding songs to slower, more deliberate, relaxing ballads. The different styles fit each part of the journey perfectly and reinforce the lyrics more than you find on most albums. It adds a depth that can’t be coincidental. An album that can evoke so many feelings through perfectly executed songs deserves recognition . This is mine.
4.5 / 5 – Listen below.