There’s been some changes since the Seattle outfit Massy Ferguson released Victory & Ruins back in 2014. Keyboardist Tony Mann has left, leaving the trio of bassist Ethan Anderson and his gruff nasal drawl vocals, Adam Monda on guitar and drummer Dave Goedde, while the pedal steel has been dumped in favour of more cranked up ringing guitars and thundering drums. Otherwise, things remain pretty much as before, delivering punch the sky heartland roots-rock in the manner of such 80s genre templates as REM, the Jayhawks and the Replacements, although, having said that, the circling riffs of Santa Fe (a track that manages to reference Ned Kelly, Prester John and Caesar) most remind of the anthemic folk rock sound of The Hooters while Dogbone has a very definite Creedence choogle to it.
The album doesn’t so much start as erupt with Gallipoli, a number about the WWI Dardanelles campaign battle which resulted in over 100,000 men being killed, racing along on a pounding beat and a spray of circling guitar riffs. It sets the template for much of what follows, although, perhaps reflecting its mental health issued lyrics, only Special Meds has the same breakneck urgency. The other numbers mostly adopt a mid-tempo swagger, such as the gyratory guitar lines of For A While, the highway cruising feel of the running just to stand still themed Making It, Firewater’s rolling rhythm guitar cascades with its lines about reliance on booze to “feel a little bigger than I am”, and the steady strut of Away From The Devil with its reverb guitar shudder.
The break-up Front Page News (“she hit me with the heartbreak blues”) is as close as they come to a ballad, Anderson initially singing against a simple guitar backing before the muscle kicks in, organ adding to the impact.
The album title comes from the penultimate, Into The Wall, something of a departure from the norm with its pulsing synth drums rhythm and reined in guitar pattern as he sings of someone beaten down and exhausted by life (“most days, seems like I’m skinning my knee, while people sit and watch it bleed”) before mandolin and crashing guitar build things to the climax, leaving the album to close with the solid heartland guitar rock of Into The Sun, a betrayed love number that builds to a storm of guitars.
They’re not looking to push any envelopes or redraw the musical map, but if you happen to be partial to straight-ahead punch the sky southern roots rock with a side order of beer swilling choruses, then climb aboard and put the pedal down.
Out Now via At the Helm