*featured photo by Bombs Away Photography
The Damn Tracks are a trio out of Chicago whose Bandcamp page says are a mix of “90s punk” and “more new school influences.” This gives little indication of what I actually found when listening to their debut, On Tap. What Chris (bass and vocals), Steve (guitar and vocals), and Anthony (drums) do with On Tap is to take bands that they clearly love and use those influences to craft an album that is both new and unique, yet familiar at the same time. You can almost dissect the album by track and name the influences, which proves to be a great deal of fun as well.
The first two tracks, “Bricks” and “Victory is a Cigarette,” would make Chuck Ragan proud and the sound brings back sonic images of when I first saw Hot Water Music live. “I used to find great victories, in long days turned to nights, but now, victory’s just a cigarette and takes years off my life.” The honesty in the lyrics and the fact that the songs clock in at two minutes makes them real gems.
The next few tracks seem influenced by bands I doubt any of us associate with punk, Counting Crows and Black Crows. All three songs have a great southern boogie vibe that will instantly have your feet tapping along. In “Modern Day Cold War,“ the percussion is perfect, the guitar lines are crisp and biting and it almost has a gospel feel. If this doesn’t have you smiling and driving a little too fast down the road as you listen then you probably have no soul.
The final half of the album is all about fellow Chicagoans. Influences by Alkaline Trio and Lawrence Arms can definitely be found in these songs (or does the city simply inspire this kind of sound?). Regardless, tracks 7 through 12 are a joyful ruckus starting with “Margaret” all the way through my personal favorite, “I’m Not Sorry to Say,” which reminds me of the greatness of the Smoking Popes in feel, if not in delivery.
The final listed track, “Set Fire to the Reign,” is drunken Irish punk at its best, by way of The Tossers, with lines like: ”I set fire to the reign, I set fires every day, I set fire to your no good fucking face.” Gang vocals beg you to sing along in inebriated abandon. After it’s conclusion, stick around because a hidden bonus track, “Mississipi Love,” is worth the wait and has an indie/alternative vibe that bands like Modest Mouse have used for years.
Don’t mistake my pointing out The Damn Tracks’ influences as saying that this album somehow sounds like this or that band. It does not. On Tap is its own record. The three members of The Damn Tracks somehow manage to take all of the bands, styles, and sounds that shaped their obvious love of music and avoided imitating any of them, creating what could be the greatest tribute album ever. It’s the musical equivalent of the student taking the stone from the teachers’ hand and showing exactly where all that knowledge went. I cannot wait to see what comes next from this band.
The Damn Tracks released On Tap on February 26, 2013 and is available as a name-your-price download.
onTheWeb: The Damn Tracks Facebook