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From the dirty south (Atlanta, GA) comes The Bastard Suns with their 2nd full length release, Here Come the Suns. The geography is worth highlighting again because the hybrid punk sound that roils from this record isn’t what one usually expects from the south: punk rock injected with irish-folk, ska & dub reggae. It’s definitely an approach to music one would expect of a Boston area punk job. Although put forth as a second full-length, the album contains three stellar repeats—“Irish Drinking Song,” “RIP,” & “Away Away Away.” The band reportedly felt unsatisfied with the original production of these tunes. The old versions weren’t that bad, but these new releases are polished , sound thicker, and are better timed than the originals, so in turn, the listener just isn’t getting some repeat album fillers with a sonic facelift.
What really rings out on this album is how the band organically blends the three disparate modes of music . In other words, the songs aren’t just punk anthems with folk, ska & reggae sprinkled over it to make the band standout in the crowd. “We’d Go For Broke,” one of the tightest tracks on the album, exemplifies this relationship completely. The punk style itself is dynamic, ranging from a traditional gallop-style punk with backup vocalists accenting the singer to a smooth technical sound that is between skate-punk & metal. While that forms the baseline, the song has abrupt shifts to ska & reggae and then huge chorus explosions that escalate into an almost Pantera-like drum frenzy. On top of this, the singer doesn’t remain neutral either, becoming an important instrument himself. The singer can range from an Irish flare to a row of articulate rocksteady. While some songs favor a folk feel—“Never Say Die,” “Oh, Celina,” “Pirates of the Whiskey Sea,” & “Irish Drinking Song”—and others have ska-reggae as the prominent mode—“Hold Fast,” “SBMT,” & “Who the Fuck”—the fusing & explosive transitions are a salient quality of the album as a whole. In the end, this effect makes the album unpredictable & surprising, especially on the first few listens.
The album also contains two covers that are done well, going beyond a jazzed up version of the original that many bands deliver. One of them is a ska-rendition of “Walk of Life” and the other is a hidden cover of Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls.” What really rings clear when listening to the Suns is a band that works hard at a collaborative effort. No instrument player is forgettable or bound to one specific method. All of them bring several styles to each song and each are able to carve out space here & there to demonstrate their musicmanship.