“Adult-contemporary punk” ranks among the most incongruous juxtaposition of musical genres, but the self-description of Chicago’s the Wild Finish is surprisingly apt. The trio’s Dan Precision-produced sophomore EP, The Jacket, comprises five songs in a state of flux, linked by a state of mind caught between youthful vigor and the stifling demands of adulthood. This dichotomy is elicited by the music’s aggressive, classic punk template and singer-bassist Ryan Sias’ lyrics battling between disillusionment and a yearning for more. What this results in is a feeling of striving on in spite of (or despite) often self-imposed limitations, of retaining your teen years’ ambition in the face of the responsibilities and cynicism that come with age.
Alcohol, both its positive and negative effects, is a recurrent figure, indicated by the titles of the first two cuts, “Actual Beer” and “Drink. Punch. Jail”. The former sets the tone of late 20s lassitude, Sias howling a narrative that evokes the hard to define melancholy of remembering a pleasant event that’s glory is likely never to be replicated. The latter is a rollicking ode to the morning after, equal parts revelry and regret, defined in opening lines, “I woke up today / Clinging to the bottle like a rosary.” “Youth Fight” starts with soft, acoustic strumming before erupting with guitarist Evan Kalway’s guitar squalls and Mike Strub’s crashing percussion, and such progression and lyrical weight makes the EP’s centerpiece. “I got a second wind / But like my father said / The chemicals will win,” Sias sings in the refrain, summing up the dueling polarities of defiance and acquiescence. Closer “The Grouch” is a suitable way to wrap things up, a pummeling assault with all three members playing at breakneck speed, almost in a race with each other. Taken together, The Jacket is a stellar sampler of 21st century Americana punk, promising big things for the Wild Finish’s future.