Saturday, February 1, 2020

Brom Bones - resist a rest

Forgive the cliche, but Brom Bones are aging like fine wine (or maybe like a great imperial stout since I'm more of a beer guy). Representing Lancaster, Pennsylvania for 30 years and counting, this punk rock foursome just might have turned out the album of its life with the newly released resist a rest. Incredibly, this is the first time Brom Bones have released an album on vinyl. And given that fact, the band has endeavored to sell most of the LP copies before it makes the album available for download. That ought to work out just fine. Resist a rest is definitely an album worth owning on vinyl. It's a vintage Brom Bones record in the respect that it brings melody, emotion, and power in equal doses. Yet it's also indicative of a band that has been progressing, evolving, and constantly striving to be better for three decades.

To say the members of Brom Bones have strong chemistry would be a huge understatement. Jason, Matt, and Chris have been in this together from the beginning. And Dustin, the "new guy", has been on board for 20 years! They are clicking on all cylinders here: Matt and Dustin locked in tight on bass and drums, Chris dishing out punchy riffs and note-perfect melodic leads, and Jason singing with as much heart, sincerity, and likeability as ever. And Greg "Rex" Litwin makes a special guest appearance - playing stunning guitar on three tracks! I suppose more than a few people assume that a band named Brom Bones would be horror-themed, but far better frames of references would be later '80s melodic punk and post-hardcore. The band has been putting its own spin on melody-driven punk rock for decades, and more recent releases like 2017's Get Down. Stay Down. have offered a fresh take on that old school style with lyrics reflecting the experiences of adults navigating life in the modern world. But while resist a rest is full of thoughtful songs and some of the band's most sophisticated compositions to date, the first thing I noticed about it is that it really rocks! This album was recorded and mixed by Steve Puffer, who exquisitely captures the band's ever-growing pop sensibility while still playing up a big, hard-hitting sound. The guitars totally blast, the bass lines really pop, and those choruses have never sounded more rousing and anthemic.

As great as resist a rest sounds, the material is every bit as impressive. Songs like "Cats & Dogs" and "Drop Out" find the band operating in its tuneful punk wheelhouse and of course are immediately satisfying. "Don't Sleep" delivers this album's definitive mosh pit moment a la Get Down. Stay Down's classic track "Short Fuse". But the more subtle and deliberately-paced tracks are what ultimately distinguish this album. "Subdivision" might be my favorite of the 12 tracks. Rather than knocking you over the head upon contact, it pulls you in slowly with a strong connection between words and melody. It's a perfect example of how to do thoughtful music with power, and it displays some of Brom Bones' finest songwriting yet. "Hard Lesson" starts out with simple melodies and acoustic guitar, and then flows seamlessly into a punk tune with the same basic qualities. "Fugander" demonstrates that "serious" punk music doesn't need to be dull or pompous. I, like many people, was very interested to hear how the band would memorialize original member Sean Wolfe on "Out Comes A Wolfe". I must say I was pretty blown away. If you ever had the chance to speak to someone on the other side that you loved dearly, wouldn't you want to say everything that was on your mind? That's essentially what this song does. It's honest, intensely personal, and deeply human - all of the things that a song of this nature ought to be. 

Following my review of Brom Bones' previous album, an anonymous commentator responded,  "Dudes are rad as fuck, and the sound is that as well". I almost considered using that as my full review of resist a rest! It's been on my mind that this band ought to be better known outside of south central Pennsylvania, and perhaps this will be the album that makes that happen. By turns reflective, serious, heartfelt, existential, and joyful (check out "Her Song"), these songs capture a band at the height of the mastery of its craft. The basic influences have never really changed, but they've been fully absorbed into Brom Bones' own musical identity. A band these guys started 30 years ago is going so strong today that they can genuinely look at this record and know it's the best one they've ever made. And there's a good chance that they'll make another one in a year or two that will be even better! It's inspiring to hear a group of guys my age who so clearly believe that our middle years should be spent still climbing the hill rather than sliding down it. Unless I'm reading it way wrong, the idea of living fully and never slowing down is a central theme of this album. Longtime fans will be stoked. And if you're into '70s punk, old DC and Youth Crew hardcore, and punk music leaning pop, perhaps this band could be an exciting new discovery for you. Bandcamp download price will not be reduced until they get the LPs sold. So if you like what you hear, treat yourself to a record!


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