It’s been a couple years of seeing Sundowners’ name pop up on show listings around town. Still, I’ve missed them every time. Well, the band has now popped up on Dirt Cult Records’ roster too, so I figured I was beyond due to see what the Minneapolis band (not to be confused with Lawrence Arms side project Sundowner) is all about. Well, the simplest description that comes to mind is that they’ve found a good fit in Dirt Cult. The band is steeped in DIY and plays punchy, poppy punk that’s still got that raw production and grit that will mostly appeal to those who are already involved in the scene. It’s raw, honest and, perhaps, under-produced (in a good way).
The songwriting on The Larger Half of Wisdom is definitely focused on the catchy. Songs like “Blue Collar Salute,” “Right Down Broadway,” and “Bird World Country” are big on the chorus and the songs bounce and hop instead of pounding with aggression, bringing some harmonies on board with “Right Down Broadway” and, later, “Cassidy’s Imagination.” On a bill, the sound would pair well with most of their labelmates at Dirt Cult, or something like Dan Padilla or ADD Records.
Where the band distinguishes themselves most comes via their lyrics. For the better part of the record it successfully blends the personal and the political, avoiding that preachy air but maintaining a firm anarcho stance. The primary vocalist, Justin Hauser, has a deeper voice with a distinct inflection. “Bird World Country” is easily the most political song on the record. Here, the band ops for preach-to-the-choir style lyrics, and it comes across a little more like a sermon than a song. The melody is a good one, but the lyrics stamp themselves over the beat a little too strongly and it detracts from what could be a standout. Songs that achieve a little better balance and highlight the groups strength would be “Blue Collar Salute” and “Dig Deeper,” neither of which—as the song titles indicate—aren’t exactly light subjects either. If politics in your punk are a turnoff, you’ll want to avoid this.
While it’s easy to pinpoint Sundowners as gruff, basement pop-punk, there is a wider pull subtly inserted into their craft. Hints of indie pop shine through in the guitars of “Hold On” and “Heavy Cards” and perhaps some ‘90s alt-rock influence as well. Even with few songs topping 3-minutes, they don’t sound cookie-cutter or too genre-reliant, and it’s simply quality songwriting through and through. The band is an up-and-comer to watch. Now to grab my Dave Strait Fest tickets so I can do just that.