We’ve reached a new era in the life of punk music: a band who has reached a career span of twenty years or more isn’t necessarily one of the founding (or pioneering) groups from the late seventies or early eighties anymore. This is uncharted territory. Point being, it’s difficult to speculate what music will be like in fifty years or so. Will people still look to the Beatles and Led Zeppelin and consider them timeless classics? Or, in the case of punk rock, will kids still be looking back through the Ramones discography, as many of us did so vigorously? Strung Out is most definitely a pioneer—skatepunk wouldn’t be the same without them—but they go along with the rarely mentioned subgenre of just that: skatepunk. Not to be confused with skate “rock,” either. Same place (and state) of origin, but for a different world and, more importantly, a different generation of kids. And, one would argue, that it’s their mutual relationship with Fat that’s kept both the bands and the label alive, due to neither of them ever quitting. They owe that to each other. If either Fat or the core groups (Lagwagon as another example) had called it a day, neither may have carried on. Coincidentally, modern skatepunk turning twenty also marks the anniversary of my life as a punk enthusiast. Strung Out’s first album, Another Day in Paradise, was one of my earliest favorites. When I first heard Mad Mad World, my brain exploded. There literally couldn’t have been a better song at that time for me. Then, in came Suburban Teenage Wasteland Blues, which didn’t leave my walkman for months. You could imagine my excitement when I first heard through the grapevine that they were coming to my town—shitty little Ottawa—playing Spodee Odee’s, that summer of ‘95. Shows of that era taught me that the scene was a safe, fun place. Punk wasn’t dangerous anymore. If you fell at an all-ages show, someone was there to pick you up. These gigs were integral to my upbringing. Fast-forward twenty years and times have changed, but not that significantly. Nineties nostalgia is in full swing, but not that it matters; Strung Out has always drawn good crowds, and from what I gather, it never really fluctuated. Not all bands have been so lucky. I’ll be truthful and admit I haven’t heard any of the records the band has released in years, at least until Transmission.Alpha.Delta landed in my lap. It’s great, too—not to mention exactly what’d you expect (and desire) from such a consistent band. It’s not impossible for them to still be winning over new fans, either. While the sound’s typical, it’s still fresh, in the sense that wouldn’t be hard for someone who listens to, say, From First To Last or something similar to be into this. But let’s back up here and clarify that they don’t sound anything alike. At all. That said, the production and overall youthful sound of this new album could win over fans of all walks of life, which is the crux of the issue. With all that in mind, it’s still the same Strung Out. There may be a few NWOBHM nods in there than I would have imagined, but the band hasn’t been shy about their fondness of metal. Take in all that, and add that Jason Cruz’s voice is still as sharp as it ever was—not something a lot of bands/vocalists can say. Tracks like “The Animal and the Machine” are ragers, while “Modern Drugs” could be a borderline ballad/hit. Comforting to know some things… don’t always change.
–Steve Adamyk (Fat, fatwreck.com)