Long-time Descendents and ALL guitarist Stephen Egerton knows a lot of great singers. Not being blessed with such vocal talents himself, he has employed the services of many of these friends, being punk rock’s biggest names, to lend their lyrical and vocal stylings to this, his first solo record.
Having played all the instruments himself, as well as engineering, producing, mixing and mastering, Egerton’s vast talents abound on this album which is essentially a lesson on how modern punk music should be. Fans of the genre will recognise such names as Less Than Jake’s Chris DeMakes and MxPx’s Mike Herrera, both of whom rise to the challenge of writing to Egerton’s trademark brand of quirky, layered and fast-changing song structure. Tim McIlrath of Rise Agaisnt also contributes vocals to one of the more relentless and heavy tracks, “South for the Winter” which bears a passing resemblance to ALL’s “Long Distance”.
Egerton has also called in the services of all but one of his bands’ current/previous singers, with Chad Price and Scott Reynolds (both of ALL) and Milo Aukerman (Descendents) each contributing a track. Price’s “Funny Face” is a reminder of just how strong he can be in a pop-rock setting after years of focus on his country and solo projects, and Reynolds and Aukerman bring out the “songs about a girl” that made their bands so renowned in their heyday. Interestingly, the song Aukerman sings, “She’s Got Everything” is the only one on the album whose lyrics were written by Egerton, literally as a Christmas present for his wife. Earlier demos of this song featured Reynolds on vocals, and the key and tempo changes on the final version to better suit Aukerman’s nerdy style are an interesting feature. Mrs Egerton is a lucky girl indeed.
The real surprises on this album though are the lesser-known artists. Egerton’s fellow Tulsan (Tulsa-ite?) John Moreland’s whiskey soaked “Abundance of Fluff” is a toe-tapping and upbeat drinking tune, whilst In Stereo/Le Fang front man Jesse Cole’s “The Avenue” is a spooky, minor-key affair with arguably the strongest lyrics on the album (in stiff competition with Armchair Martian’s Jon Snodgrass’ effort, “Fire’s On”) and an example of what bands such as AFI and, shudder, Fall Out Boy strive to, yet often fall short of achieving. Indeed, in an album so focused on Egerton’s unmistakable musicianship and production style, it’s easy to overlook just how great some of the lyrics really are. Egerton has done well to match each track to an appropriate singer, with “Willie Wicked” (featuring Wretch Like Me and My Name throatster Abe Brennan) being perhaps the best example of him tailoring his style to that of his desired vocalist, again in competition with the western twang of the Jon Snodgrass tune.
It has proven very difficult to find fault with this album. If forced to identify a weak point, it would obviously be the inconsistency that comes with differing singers on each song, but even this has been handled in as good a way as could be, with the track sequencing keeping the album flowing. It’s a safe bet that this album will be on the Music Vice turntable for some time to come.
© Steve Pass, Music Vice
Interested in hearing more about Stephen Egerton’s new album? Check out Music Vice’s recent interview with the man himself.