Review by: Gimpleg
Last September the Plastic Presidents dropped their debut single, “Ends Meat”. If you missed it last year when it released, I have good news and bad news for you. The bad news is you spent the last 8 months missing one of the best overall singles and my favorite debut single from all of last year. The good news is you can rectify that now and get the whole album with the rest of the amazing songs that accompany it!
As I prepare to put on the album for the first time, I am cautiously a little nervous. It’s been almost 8 months since “Ends Meat” released, and I don’t know if the rest of the album will hold up against such a stellar single. I sometimes have a tendency to be too critical when I go in to something with lofty expectations that can’t be met. I just want to absorb this album one piece at a time and develop my thoughts as they come and I really believe that the first song on an album is extremely important. In the age of digital streaming, few people listen to an album from front to back, but I always do, and the first song sets the pace. It tells me what to expect, and ideally where we are going. I hit play. Track one. “Chains”.
The bass! The album intros with a steady punk drum rhythm and a very audible bass line that remains prominent throughout the track. Even before the first chord on the guitar, the first vocal, the first horn line, you can tell this is going to be good. The guitar chimes in, layering its own rhythm, this one a little catchier. Hips start moving. Feet start moving. A voice calls through my headphones “LETS GO!” Crisp clean horns add in their own layer. Hot mustard! I’m dancing already. This track is a love song to the genres that influenced the album, and it definitely does them justice. I can imagine this being the opener at every live show, and if this was the stage setter, everyone in the building would be on the floor.
The album goes directly from this to “Ends Meat”, the aforementioned single. This comes in hard with the drums in a pounding rhythm marching the song forward. This is as punk and ska core as it gets while also having the type of beat and rhythm that makes you take notice. You can not stop paying attention. The pacing is perfect. The drums are impeccable, and you will not ignore them. The horn line joins in and absolutely does not make the song feel crowded and does not take away from the drums which still propel the song ahead. We get a full minute of instrumental bliss before the vocals kick in. If this song had a single drawback, it would be the vocals can be too quiet and at times difficult to decipher, but the pacing and rhythm of the vocals only help to keep you moving as they attack the economic systems that create an industry dedicated to the murder of animals for food. The guitar fading to a simple ska rhythm over the verses helps to ensure the message is heard. While everything to this point has kept your feet moving and had you in the pit, the bridge turns it up several more notches, all the way to the keys at the end bringing that one extra change that drives the song hom before the final chorus. Damn, this song is incredible.
While “Ends Meat” is definitely the high point of the album, it doesn’t fall far back from there. The next track is “Fairweather Friends”, another great track that reminds me of a well produced version of 90s punk ska. The guitar and drums almost remind me of something from Blink 182’s Dude Ranch album while the backing vocals feel reminiscent of Suicide Machine’s Destruction by Definition. If those are the comparisons being made on a song that is a “step back” from the highlights of the album, you know you’re listening to a pretty damn good album. The energy of this song- especially the vocals and horns- is just a step behind the previous tracks. However, the vocals in this track are also the clearest on the album so far which also makes it easier to sing along with.
The most shocking song on the album is “Pressure Rising”, which starts off as a pure hard-core song. Gone is the punk or the ska punk, this song begins as pure hardcore before transitioning to ska core breakdown, and then having a ska-punk influenced bridge, before returning to the more hard-core styles through the end of the song. The seamless flow from hardcore and metal to a pop tinged ska and back while adding to the value of the song and not feeling hokie or forced demonstrates pure skill.
No review of this album would be complete without at least referencing the greatest song title ever in “West Omaha is a Terrible Place and I’m Definitely Afraid to Die”. This track is another track that is just insanely good, and while the name feels like it might be a gag song, it actually discusses mental health and genuine themes that are serious. It feels a lot like a 90s, third wave ska song- perhaps some Five Iron Frenzy influences through most of the track before the instrumental and a pleasant shift in rhythm that felt almost like a 50’s R&B section that ended with an accelerated return to the chorus.
When all is said and done this album is eight amazing punk infused ska-core tracks that all fit together extremely well that all show off a diverse range of sounds and influences. Even the worst tracks on this album, if such a thing were to exist, are good enough to play on repeat as singles. It’s a welcome sound to hear a strong bass line in every single song, especially in a seven piece ska band where the bass guitar is almost universally drowned out. This may be the debut album for Plastic Presidents, but I seriously doubt this is the last time we hear their music. These eight songs are just the beginning.
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