Punishers is the third LP from The Slow Death, fronted by ex-Pretty Boy Thorson & the Falling Angels mouthpiece Jesse Swan Thorson and backed by a rotating cast that includes Falling Angel Dave Strait, Dillinger Four’s Paddy Costello, The Ergs! Mike Yannich, and a slew of others depending on availability any given night. It’s also a natural extension of Pretty Boy Thorson, featuring a confrontational-yet-personal blend of deep-seated emotion and punk fury and frustration. Pretty Boy Thorson directly mined the emotional backdrop of country music while playing gruff-drunk punk. With The Slow Death, it’s honed into the power chord format with more punch and bite atop those lyrical laments.
The songs on Punishers are pretty much all written in the first-person point of view. Lyrics start off with “I” and “why,” as Thorson belts out his frustrations about uncomfortable situations—a good many of which he’s created himself. It’s introspective and puts it all on the line for the listener, but with a universal tone behind the tunes that forges an intimate connection. It’s not singer-songwriter balladry, but catharsis.
With 14 songs, each goes by quickly—from 30-seconds to four minutes a pop. While much of this record fits the bill of a No Idea Records-styled gruff punk sing-along, Thorson’s a formidable vocalist and songwriter. There’s a unique stamp across all his work and the songs bear similarities without getting samey. It’s cynical (see “Overrated”) but self-deprecating in a way that’s brutally honest yet alternately tongue in cheek.
“All We Know” throws some extra energy into the record with an early group chorus. It’s followed by “It’s Not Enough,” which is a melodic song on dealing with pain, countered by an emphatic refrain/call to action. Anything jumps of the wax in a lonesome but powerful call to action in the worst of times, and then there’s the frequently covered “Jeane,” originally by The Smiths with the uber-fitting “We tried and we failed” refrain.
Live, The Slow Death can be powerful or, just as often, they can be a mess. It’s a perfect metaphor for their musical tone as well. On this half-hour LP, the songs are alternately punishing in their fury but agonizing in their loneliness.
8.4 / 10
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