Frontier Ruckus “On The Northline”

Loose Music , 2023

Urban decay set to Banjos and 60s psych mean a welcome return for an always good band.

Lead singer and lyricist Matthew Milia says new album ‘On The Northline’ was “inspired partly by the North Country of upstate New York—where the Thousand Islands pepper the St. Lawrence Seaway—and where my dad’s side of the family somehow landed from Sicily in the early 1900s. Once an industrial boomtown, now marked by Amish buggies tied up outside of Price Choppers, dilapidated bowling alleys and weedy putt-putt golf courses where the tourists have long-since stopped summering.”

Opening song ‘Swore I Had A Friend’ is 6 minutes of plucked Banjo, brass and eerie electronics. The lyrics have always been one of Frontier Ruckus songs. ‘Everywhere but Beside You’ reflects on Home Depot cashiers and summertime with friends. ‘Magdalene (That’s Not Your Name)’ takes a gift card expiring as the starting point for the feeling that life has in fact all been a letdown.

Matthew Milia’s songs can be reminiscent of Willy Vlautin’s, both looking at the American Dream from underneath the decay, through a variety of characters, set to music that is weary of the struggle. With their last album appearing in 2017 he has had plenty of time to reflect and write. The title song looks out of the window and offers some slightly over complicated metaphors for escape from the declining town of his youth.

The core trio of Milia, David W. Jones on banjo and Zachary Nichols on trumpet and variety of unlikely instruments are supplemented by a guest rhythm section, who keep out of the way contributing strictly where needed. The travel theme keeps going with ‘Mercury Sable’ one of those American cars that take up more acreage than is really necessary. Some slightly corny rhymes: cable, table, neatly convey the teenage awkwardness of the rest of the words.

Clarkston Pasture’ is as close to upbeat as they get and is another, like the opening two tunes, that has more than passing nod to the 60s, from Beatles to CSN. ‘The Machines of Summer’ brings pedal steel into the musical pallet, with a brief 2 minute song that could be the best thing here.

The album was funded by a Kickstarter campaign. As a band who have long had a close relationship with their fanbase this makes sense. Milia says that the recording process too them back to their first album and the homegrown feel which that had. “I hope the intimacy of the songs reminds long-time listeners what they loved about our band and invites new listeners in just the same. In that sense the full-circleness doubles as a love letter to our followers. Six albums in, for the ones still with us, ‘On the Northline’ is as much for them as it is for us.”


About Tim Martin 247 Articles
Sat in my shed listening to music, and writing about some of it. Occasionally allowed out to attend gigs.
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