Modern Life Is War – Tribulation Worksongs Vol. 2

2 out of 5

Label: Deathwish

Produced by: Luke Tweedy

Context can matter a lot in music. Jeffrey Eaton’s writing in Modern Life Is War has always been rather impressive – very literate and poetic as compared to many of his hardcore music peers, covering some stereotypical subject matter with maturity and intelligence that lends his insights a sense of greater weight. That holds true on these singles which, fittingly as per their series title, Tribulation Worksongs, examine the conundrums of the common working man.

However: context. The B-side’s title, Indianapolis Talking Blues, is also certainly a good description of the style of spoken-word set to minimalist guitar riffings, but the delivery is not great for Eaton’s thoughts, making them seem a bit more notebook ranting than passionate punk rock antheming. A narrative on “What makes a man kill?” starts out well, but after the midway point devolves into quaint one liners, and the song doesn’t really have a peak to drive this home. Set to some blazing guitars and / or with music that at least underlined the flow of the track in some way, this would come across a lot better. As-is, it feels cheesier than it should.

The A-side fares much better with Revival Fires, a solid rocker with quality lyrics throughout, but here the production somewhat lets the band down, leveling the whole thing so that some of the flourishes don’t enhance the music much, and it never comes to a conclusion, really – it hits running and just stays that pace throughout, despite Kurt Ballou trying to mix it up extra gritty.