Punk never died; it just became watered down. There are plenty of us out here who know that Green Day and Blink 182 are not the sole torch carriers of the punk scene. Take a look through the indie section of your favorite mom and pop’s record store and chances are you’ll find a bevy of punk and punk-influenced discs to choose from. Oh yeah, and don’t forget the seven inch releases. Punk bands still enjoy issuing their singles on vinyl from time to time.
So for today’s lesson in punk we shall turn to The Dimestore Haloes and their new album Long Ride to Nowhere. They’ve been featured in Maximum Rock And Roll twice. That makes them “legit”. Not that I care. My only concern right now is bringing them to you, the PopMatters crowd. The Haloes feature Johnny Reject on drums and percussion, Marcus Arvan on the bass, Chaz Matthews on lead vocals and guitar, and Nick Fitt on guitar as well. Now that you’ve been properly introduced, let’s take a gander at this album.
First off, I have to say that upon opening the disc and looking at the inner sleeve I was almost instantly put off by a smug quote from Nelson Algren’s Walk on the Wild Side from 1956. I figured I was in for another hipster band that liked to name-drop beat literature and act cooler than was believably possible. Well, you know what they say about first impressions. Unfortunately, your sleeve info can speak as loudly about you as your music at times. But luckily for the Haloes their music is pretty entertaining, if not a bit predictable.
Predictable as in they tend to use the same three chords in each song. Yes, I realize the punk aesthetic is all about keeping it simple and to hell with the technicalities, but it doesn’t hurt to throw in that “other” fourth chord every now and then. The production is also what you’d probably expect from a release such as this. All the instruments wash together, causing little separation and the overall sound is pretty thin with no real bass bottom. It’s lo-fi hi-fi if you will (or maybe you won’t). Johnny Reject’s drumming is especially loose as he pummels his kit, varying his beats between a sloppy half time and a sloppier double-time. The exception to this is the slick “Wreck with Me” in which the entire band seems to tighten up and really shine.
Musically, the Haloes are not far from the sound of groups like the Buzzcocks or the Undertones, with a dash of the Ramones thrown in for good measure. In fact songs like “Good Times Gone” and the closing “Kids Want Action” are about as derivative of the late Joey Ramone as one could get. In theory at least. Somewhat surprisingly, “Death Is a Star” (not to be confused with Clash song of same name) is pretty damn sharp, sounding like it was recorded in an entirely different studio from the rest of the album what with its crisp production and all. These songs are clearly the standouts of Long Ride to Nowhere. The other four tracks (yes, this is actually a relatively short ride in reality) seem to puddle up in their sameness, but I suppose that that is halfway expected with an album like this.
Not to say those songs are bad. Indeed, “That Girl’s in Love with Death” and “Stay Young” keep the punk ethic alive and well. It would have just been nice to hear more songs like “Wreck with Me” with variations in beat and melody. Still, Long Ride To Nowhere is a nice, quick album that’s fun to put on when you’re thirsting for something more than Dookie or Enema of the State. Whether or not The Dimestore Haloes are indeed “the real thing” doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that they play what they feel to be the real thing, and in all honesty their warts and all approach seems a lot more sincere than the pop punk that climbs the charts every now and then.