Nato Coles. If heartland punk is not a recognized genre of music, it probably should be. And Mono In Stereo is its next great band. Hailing from Rockford, Illinois, Mono In Stereo is largely made up of members of '90s pop-punk stalwarts Mulligan Stu. The band's debut album Long For Yesterday is out soon on Rum Bar Records - one of my two or three favorite record labels on the planet. Malibu Lou is really starting to expand the geographic base of his label. First he went across the pond to sign Los Breakdowns. Now he's got his foot in the Midwest - and it doesn't get any more Midwestern than Mono In Stereo! This band brings the true sound of the heartland: melding the seemingly disparate influences of Bruce Springsteen, '80s hardcore, modern-day alt country, and classic Midwestern punk. I'm talking sincere songwriting, no-nonsense rocking tunes, and choruses that practically explode out of your earbuds. While in many ways similar to more recent bands like The Gaslight Anthem, Mono In Stereo owes just as much to the Midwestern legacy of Husker Du, The Replacements, and Naked Raygun. Equal parts anthems, ballads, and straight-ahead rockers, Long For Yesterday throws it back to a time when alternative rock was king.
If you followed Mulligan Stu's career, you won't be shocked that Mono In Stereo has come so far from its pop-punk roots. Rare for its time, Mulligan Stu was a pop-punk band willing to evolve and constantly embrace new influences. Mono In Stereo takes that evolution to another level - demonstrating that loud guitars and big hooks still have a place in "mature" rock n' roll. Kevin, Mike, and Billy (along with new drummer Jordan Acosta) have made the best record of their lives. Far from sounding disinterested or over the hill, these guys have clearly been energized by this new chapter in their history. Typical of the work of a veteran band, Long For Yesterday pulls from a lifetime of musical influences yet comes together in a fully identifiable way. It's an album that has a lot to say about life - full of reflections on the past and hopes for the future. Fiery anthems like the title track and "Monty Nolder" ought to induce mass levels of fist pumping, while "What We Sang" is perhaps the most heartfelt love letter to the rock n' roll underground since The Replacements' "Left Of The Dial". By turns reminiscent of Jesse Malin ("Late Night Confessor"), classic post-hardcore ("Born Again To Lose"), Dramarama ("Never Coming Down"), and Steve Earle ("Another Man's Time"), Mono In Stereo's songwriting shows impressive range and a real flair for tunes that stick in your head.
Being of that generation that came of age buying tapes from SST Records and listening to early '90s college radio, I feel a strong personal connection to Mono In Stereo. This is a band that reminds me of how great "alternative" music was before it all went to shit. But I don't think you have to be of a certain age to appreciate Long For Yesterday. It's one of those albums that's just damn good. No matter what's new or "hot" in the world of music, we will always go back to those bands that craft great songs and write lyrics that speak to the human experience. The sound of the American heartland is timeless. Pop open a cold one, have a seat on your lawn chair, and let these songs sink in. It's gonna be a fine summer.