The Larger Half of Wisdom
(Dirt Cult Records)
Before we begin, this is not a review of the Lawrence Arm’s guitarist Chris McCaughan’s solo project entitled Sundowner. This is an album review of Minneapolis punk band Sundowners. But, don’t be deterred from reading on. Despite the lack of lyrics solely based on drinking yourself into oblivion with friends while living in Chicago, this band is mind-blowingly good.
Sundowners is a four piece band hailing from Minneapolis, MN. Despite their roots, they are somehow able to escape that stereotyped ‘Midwest’ sound that has gradually taken over not only the region but The Fest as well. The sound is in there somewhere; it’s just handled with more craft and diversity than with other bands.
Nine months after releasing their 7” on Dirt Cult Records, they have followed up with their second full length album entitled The Larger Half of Wisdom. The album portrays the similar melodic punk tendencies seen in their last release. But, there is also a distinct feeling of a slight transition and a coming into their own as the band ages and progresses. Although Sundowners’ harmonies stand out in each of their releases, there is something about this album that takes them over the top, in a positive way. Saying that the guitar riffs are hauntingly catchy still does them no justice. There are songs on this album that will stay stuck in your head for days, like an unhealthy thirst that can only be quenched by another full listen to all 13 songs. It’s catchy in an almost damning Taylor Swift “We Are Never Getting Back Together” way. For over a week, it seemed like I listened to nothing but Sundowners by day and dreamt with The Larger Half of Wisdom as my soundtrack by night. Chris Mason of Dirt Cult seemed to have a similar experience. He stated, “…I listened to this about 4 weeks straight before I finally decided I should put on an other record.” The album is that powerful and that enjoyable.
Upon a first listen, The Larger Half of Wisdom comes off as just plain good. Punk with melodies written by 4 guys who grew up in northern Minnesota with a solid album reflecting that. Upon a second listen, however, the album begins to take root and grow. Songs like “Belly Up, Buckle Down” and “Heavy Cards” begin to stand out as a couple of the best, strongest, and catchiest songs on the album both musically and lyrically. One cannot help but draw comparisons between “Bird World Country” to any song from the Against Me! catalogue. The method of rotating rapid speaking then singing lyrics of social discontent with one’s surrounding community harkens back to a time when Laura Jane Grace was still known as Tom Gabel. Similarly, the song “Hold On” parallels Propagandhi in musical style, backing vocals, and topic matter. Whether the incorporation of the above bands’ trademark sounds was intentional or accidental, neither song comes off as an ode. Sundowners sound like themselves, despite our frames of reference. Then you get to “Dig Deeper”, possibly the strongest song on the album. I dare you to not spend a full hour listening to this song on repeat. It is the welcomed wild card to the album. From the dual paralleled vocals at the beginning of the song to the melodic and layered chorus, the song stands out amongst the rest as the cleanest and most polished. It is the song that could make it on the radio as a single, that is, if it didn’t have a soul.
From beginning to end, The Larger Half of Wisdom is a complex album. Musically, it is about as diverse as melodic punk can get. Lyrically, it is loaded with witty thoughts and phrases which make you take a step back and think. Overall, it’s a breath of fresh air in this stuffy Midwest music niche.
Purchase The Larger Half of Wisdom here: http://dirtcultrecords.storenvy.com/collections/183633-dirt-cult-releases