Have things finally turned around for Jesse Thorson, making the country-punk band sing a new song of joy and celebration?
Of course not.
Previously, the band didn’t play alt-country so far as they wrote punk songs to country lyrics—however, An Uneasy Peace definitely sees that paradigm shifting toward a fuzzier genre classification. Maybe it’s because Thorson now has an outlet for his punk leanings in The Slow Death and maybe it’s just because that’s the mood he was in when writing An Uneasy Piece. Regardless, the tempo has slowed a touch and the acoustic presence is more notable than ever, with a bit of twang and a whole lot of heavy-drinking heartbreak. Where that changes the tone is that it’s a bit less of a venting feeling and more of a drinking alone vibe, although closer “I Love You Even More” pulls both into a big, strong song of self-loathing, heartache, and big, loud emotion as Thorson shouts, “I love you even more than I hate myself.” It’s a standout ending and a song reflective of his larger body of work.
The record starts out with “I Don’t Think I’m Gonna Make It,” which opens with a guitar line not terribly dissimilar to Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” before additional instrumentation swings the song into a weepy country affair that sometimes, via guitar, reaches for the epic. An Uneasy Peace is definitely shifting the band’s sound more on the country side of things, especially with “Shasta Lake” or “I’ll Be Down in a Bit.”
Their songs have always been heavy on the self-loathing and, as the punk sound has waned here, the wallowing misery is brought more to the forefront. There are positive aural vibes that come over the course of the record—like the swinging “I’m Tired,” which gives an upbeat kick despite the downtrodden lyrics—and that’s as succinct a description of the band as can be given; it’s a painful story of contrast and celebration, finding moments of positive to drown out the downers.
Dan Johnson takes over the microphone on a few songs and he shows some improvement as a change-of-pace singer from previous efforts. He’s still got a bit of that “when Matt Freeman sings a Rancidsong” tone that throws the record in a new direction when his voice first hits the speakers before the familiar country-punk backing takes effect. To keep the Freeman thing going, I also pick up a bit of rockabilly in Johnson’s delivery, albeit subtle. The relationship ballad “You’re Not the One” is an effective change of perspective, shifting the blame (for a song) away from the speaker. A little bit of classic rock seeps in at times, as in “New #3,” though only in the riffs. There are no solos here and nothing tops 4:25.
An Uneasy Peace is a different tone than its predecessors, softer and more countrified, and it shows Thorson and co. developing their songwriting. It’s a solid piece of their discography, but it’s not exactly their highlight either. That partial punk-country balance in the past defined the group in a crowded playing field, and as the hybrid feeling is less prevalent, it’s just a bit harder for this record to stand out.
7.1 / 10
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