TSOL: Divided We Stand: CD

Assuming that everyone reading this has at least an inkling of who TSOL are, I’ll skip to the meat: Their “comeback” album, Disappear, was a good punk album. Sure, it took a little getting used to, primarily because of the band attached to it, but it was good and got better with repeated listens. It was not, however, a good TSOL album. Some bands, whether they perceive it as blessing or curse, you just expect more from. In the case of TSOL, their strength lay in their experimentation within punk’s rigid boundaries – their melding of “gothic” and “hardcore” sensibilities, the complex interplay between instruments, a seeming fearlessness to challenge the listener to accept what they were doing on their terms rather than what was expected. That said, this IS a good TSOL album. Starting off with a couple of decent, if pedestrian, punk rave-ups, the boys spend the remaining eleven tracks plundering a whole host of styles and inspirations, tossing out knowing references to old English influences (the bass line that starts out “Fuck You Tough Guy” is reminiscent of the Damned’s “Neat Neat Neat;” the chorus of “See You Tomorrow” references the piano plink plink of the Buzzcocks’ “Something Goes Wrong Again”), adding to some numbers acoustic guitars and keyboards (the latter supplied by Greg Kuehn, who did time in the band during the Beneath the Shadows years and later joined Jack in Cathedral of Tears) in others, and varying tempos and styles enough to keep listeners guessing from one song to the next. The result leaves the impression that Disappear was merely a warm-up for the band, a chance to reacquaint themselves with form before they got down to the serious business of being TSOL and coming up with this, their true comeback album. Given that this is marked improvement on an already solid foundation, and assuming they plan to continue on this trajectory, the next album should be a monster. Glad to have you back, guys. We missed you.

 –jimmy (Nitro)