Just when I thought everything had been said and done with street punk and the genre was starting to play itself out, along came this new GC5 album to destroy all my preconceptions. I’ve been trying to figure out what sets the GC5 apart from all the street punk bands that came and went within a year or two of that first Dropkick Murphys album. I scratched my head over this as I listened to this album again and again. Finally, I realized that it’s not one thing that sets this album apart. It’s everything. It’s the fact that they owe as much to the Workin’ Stiffs as they owe to Cocksparrer. It’s the new energy and anxiousness they bring to their songs. It’s their ability to stick a slow, acoustic song in the middle of the album without killing the flow of the album and without coming off as a second rate bar band. It’s the way they can sneak outlaw-country-style lyrics reminiscent of Waylon Jennings or Kris Kristofferson (yeah, Kristofferson’s a weenie of an actor, but he was a great songwriter) into their songs, like this one: “I got my education in the ivory halls/ Found the pulse of the nation on truck-stop toilet stalls.” It’s the way they completely rip off the Swingin’ Utters in one song, yet somehow get away with it. It’s little bits and pieces, and the way they all fit together. I got their first album, Kisses from Hanoi, a couple of years ago and have listened to it consistently since then. I was hoping their follow up album would be as good, and Never Bet the Devil Your Head definitely holds up against their debut. The lyrics are less political on the new album, but there’s still a lot of great lines. And the wanking guitar solos from the first album have been replaced by more solidly constructed songs. It’s a fucking awesome album.