3 out of 5
Label: Fat Wreck Chords
Produced by: Roger Manganelli
The Suicide Machines returning to put out a new album after fifteen years? Heck yes, I pre-ordered; I eagerly waited. …But I’ll admit, I also wasn’t expecting much. The SMs would be elder punk statesmen by this point, and while Jay Navarro was still killing it in Hellmouth, I suspected a new Machines release would take from his work with the Traitors, and be a bit… dad rock-y, for dads who grew up listening to the Suicide Machines. A reunion album, in other words, when band members get back together and relive the past with some flashy production, and more “mature” lyrics.
The good news is that this isn’t exactly that, and perhaps thanks to staying active in Hellmouth, Navarro – and the rest of the group – sound as sharp as ever. The reunion vibe translates to the nature of the songs, but in an interesting way: the album is like an overview of SMs different modes, from the singalong pop of Destruction to the quicker, streamlined cuts of Battle Hymns, and on to the transition to hardcore on their previous two dics. This is a lot of fun. This isn’t just the group trying to play loud and fast to prove a point – rather, they reviewed what came before, and tried to synthesize it into the next step. So, yeah, we get some horns and keys and some interesting vocal harmonies, but we also get a classic SM ska-influenced sound and pace.
But the dad rock bit is there in terms of passion. Not energy, which is maxed out, making every track into a head-bobby single, but more directly the motivating factor behind the songs. Navarro’s never been the most inventive lyricist, sticking to “fight against the man” genericisms quite often, but the intensity with which this was delivered (whether as snotty punkers early on or the throaty hardcore of alter albums) had SMs standing out from their peers, especially when married to their endless wealth of catchy hooks. And there’s just no real traceable Oomph behind Revolution Spring: it feels designed to hit a whole bunch of song types – that round robin of Suicide Machines styles – and then the lyrics were filled in via madlibs template.
Oddly, this kind of puts it on par, conceptually with the group’s puzzling self-titled pop album – catchy stuff, sounds like The Suicide Machines, but crafted for mass appeal. Just, this time, the “mass” they’re appealing to are their patient fans.
And those fans will find an absolutely worthwhile addition to their SM library, but I can’t list any tracks from Revolution Spring as being on my greatest hits from the band.