Midwestern Minutes is the fourth full-length from Defiance, Ohio. The band has crafted a sound that draws from Americana and Plan-It-X-style DIY pop punk. The instrumentation of the six-piece adds to their distinction. While the members split songwriting and lead vocal duties, there is a communal feel as most of their songs end up with a group chorus leading the way. While the band has always been somewhat spread out, both geographically and in terms of songwriting, this really comes across on the new record, with a stark distinction between songwriters.
Following 2007’s The Fear, The Fear, The Fear, Midwestern Minutes is less polished. However, overall the record feels carefully arranged and the songs, despite coming from multiple voices, all fit together in and celebrate the value of a close-knit community. There’s a somber feel as compared with previous releases.
The band’s strength has been their ability to straddle weighty subjects without coming across as either preachy or reading like a dissertation. There’s a first-person, accessible tone that brings it together, as in “The White Shore:”
"I will not condemn what anyone did to survive.
But I will not defend a culture that makes us decide.
To assimilate or die.
Or that defines survival as
running as fast as you can from the places you came from,
forgetting the things that have made you,
until all that is left is the burning in your lungs or
the pounding in your heart that only has space for contempt for the ones who couldn’t quite make it."
Similarly, the band’s songs are dominated by a we’re-all-in-this-together feeling, exemplified in “The Reason” and “You Are Loved.” The first half of the record is reminiscent of earlier albums, with highlights including “The White Shore” and “Hairpool.” However, the last five songs take on a new dimension.
The quiet, minute-long “Diamonds Theme Song” is a ballad in the vein of Fembots or Weakerthans. The piano lead fits well in the context of the album. Another moment of growth for the band is the theatrical “Her Majesty’s Midwestern Islands.” Though in contrast to the understated songs of their back catalogue, it stands out among the album’s memorable tracks. Not only is it one of the few upbeat songs on the record, but it showcases the band’s melodic chops as they ditch the slightly off-key vocals for some pomp.
Midwestern Minutes is a curious record. The music often comes across as solemn and contemplative, while much of the subject matter is positive and uplifting. Through the 11 songs, the songwriting seems to be pulling in two directions and the inconsistency sets it back a bit. In a recent interview, Geoff said the band has been spending more time polishing their songs on the road, instead of before hitting the studio, and it shows in the record’s inconsistency. While it definitely has its moments, it feels like a transition record.
7.0 / 10
Defiance, Ohio are somewhat of a punk rock abnormality, having released a slew of records in a short amount of time, yet still maintaining the same lineup and same ethics, ...
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