In my recent Kiss of Death reviews theres been a steady diet of pop-influenced beard punk. Expecting more of the same, Gainesvilles The Shaking Hands threw me for a loop with their late 90s street punk anthems. The band would be at home on a Give em the Boot or Old Skars and Upstarts comp, with their tendencies toward tough guy, fist-in-the-air group vocals and a no-letting-up style. They also remind me of numerous late 90s snowboard videos.
Liars are for Punching starts things out, offering 2:18 of anthemic, gangs-all-here street punk. While they tend toward anthemic, lead vocal verses with group choruses, they do a good job when varying the tempos, such as in A Reason to Rise and Breathe. Singer John Grimaldis voice is somewhere between the Street Dogs Mike McColgan and Anti Flag's Justin Sane, but faster and angrier than either. However, the band has a lot more go-for-the-throat urgency to their music than anyone Ive named thus far. Its every bit as aggressive and angry as 80's hardcore, with Grimaldi leading the way.
Where The Shaking Hands differ from most street punk is the overt political message. Stuart Fensom started the band largely out of political anger. When you hear rah rah rah chanted in History Does What? it first sounds like some typical were all in this together up-the-punxism, but a closer listen spells it out pretty bluntly. Theres some slogan-y, loyalty-theme lyricism, but it has an overlying political angst:
What exactly is it that youre cheering for, now?
What are we? A football team??
Rah! Rah! Rah! We cant be beat!?
Ive read this book before.
It begins and ends with war.
The record starts out powerfully, but there are numerous spots where I had to stop and reminisce, trying to figure out if I was listening to a mid-1990s melodic hardcore cover. I decided I was not. Generally, I like The Shaking Hands sound and Im sure they deliver a hell of a punch live, but around Jacksons Coal - by far their poppiest song - the record begins to lose steam. Isolated, or on a mix, the songs really pack a punch, but as the entirety of the record plays they blend together because every song is an angry, aggressive political diatribe. Sameness sets in. However, the acoustic You Should Really Get That Looked At works surprisingly well as is a great closing track for the album.
I never would have expected it, but the band features two members of The Young Livers. The artwork is simple in concept, with disembodied bones and a collage feel, and it works in delivering a simple, but not cheap or clichéd message.
7.5 / 10
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