Blue Collar, East Coast, hard times.
There’s little more broken than a blue-collar broken heart. Add into the mix the angry despair of East Coast punks and, well, you’ve found Gregor Barnett. Scranton punks The Menzingers are his ‘day job’, and they’ve been busy and successful over their fifteen year career. This record chronicles Barnett’s hard times; family illnesses, death and personal struggles. It’s no secret that tough times make for good songs; such is the nature of music. So, with the groundwork laid in front of him, has Gregor made a good record?
Well, the opening track ‘Oh Lord, What Do You Know?’ is a straight up banger of a tune. Mean and moody, with big drums and ominously chiming guitars. Barnett’s soul is laid bare, exposed and pleading for some salvation. However, the formula for blue collar ‘rocky’ Americana can offer few strokes of individuality, and here lies the problem for Barnett. ‘Driving Through The Night’ is rather Springsteen/Killers by numbers. It’s quite a disappointment, as track two’s go. Fortunately, next up is ‘The First Dead Body I Ever Saw’, and it’s an upward curve. Slow and dark (as you’d expect), and whether it’s factual or fictional, Barnett is convincing here.
There are other ‘bright’ points in the collection. ‘Talking To Your Tombstone’ is (musically) a snare shuffle that abruptly jumps into a stark wide open, poignant chorus. It works. The title track is, though, a little too much painting by numbers; with harmonica and twangy riff it borrows excessively from New Jersey’s most famous son. There’s some more of the ‘Killers/Bruce’ blend, too evident in ‘Anthem For The One I Love’. A little too formulaic, unfortunately.
Whilst we can’t diminish the honest sentiments behind Barnett’s song suite, musically it doesn’t quite hit the sweet spot.