Sometimes when you take a test drive, you know right away that it’s the car for you.
Quaker Wedding, if they were a car (sorry, but I’m going to drive this metaphor as far as I can), would be the 150,000+ mile American economy vehicle I drove for a decade in the ‘90s. It’s unique and agile, but with rust spots, dents and sun damage. It’s worn at the edges, but it’s comfortable, familiar and give a memorable journey. And that’s enough about my 1987 Pontiac Sunbird. Besides, the real metaphor on In Transit isn’t Midwestern highways, it’s the NYC subway system.
Quaker Wedding plays gruff pop-punk. Take a heartfelt, hoarse vocals and add singalong verse-chorus-verse structures that combine influence from Midwestern pop-punk, Jawbreaker, and memories of The Broadways. I also hear some sunny San Diego melodies and central Florida hardship. It has a lot of familiar genre stamps but it pulls from enough different sources that it’s still fresh and true. Wrap it all up with an omnipresent sense of vulnerability. That sense of finding one’s place is the definitive inspiration for the album title too, with relocation as a driving force.
On “Jilted Lover,” the band turns the ‘90s emo convention on its head in taking the blame in a failed relationship. “Aching” literally admits “I’ve become a Midwest lyric,” and “On An Island” closes it all out by recapping the relocation theme. It’s fast, short, coarse and loud. It’s angry, constrained, frustrated and pained. When it’s on, it’s really on.
That’s not to say this record is perfect. While the majority of the songs here really grab me, it has moments that are too repetitive or too direct. “Searching” suffers from show-don’t-tell syndrome, with lyrics that sound like: “Here’s what I did / And then I felt this way/ Now I’ve come to a conclusion.” Overall I really like the closer, “On An Island,” but like many other Jawbreaker-inspired bands, it utilizes a spoken word vocal track on the final verses, which totally saps the energy. From a sequencing point-of-view, it works great to tidy up the record and reach an emotional bookend. But as a music fan, I basically tune out those last four minutes. In my opinion, the spoken word thing has never worked in this genre, but bands keep trying it.
In Transit isn’t a perfect ride, but it features time-tested gruff punk and heart-on-sleeve emotion that makes it enjoyable throughout. Like my Sunbird, or like the NYC subway, its charm is often from its blemishes. On occasion it hits a bump and you wonder if it might finally go off track, but it keeps going and the connection only grows stronger.
8.3 / 10
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