This is as strange a project as you’ll hear all year – denizens of the LA punk scene, including Social Distortion and Bad Religion, eschewing the guitar violence and mayhem that was their stock-in-trade to make an album that pays homage to a style antithetical to punk – country rock. It all makes sense for BR’s Gaffin, however, for whom this a salute to the old California world of fiddles, clawhammer banjos and close harmonies, which is as much an American experience as the punk spawned later.
The creed of ‘authenticity’ so beloved of American rockers is a driver here – there’s no ironic distance, merely faithful replication on tracks like Too Many Virtues and the banjodriven Echo On The Hill. What’s missing, especially in the vocals, is the honeyed, harmonic element you get with, say, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
Their punk training doesn’t quite lend them that particular grace. As a result, this can feel like a bit of a rough ride in places, albeit an intriguing one.