Bradenton’s favourite sons return re-energized with a high-octane power pop EP soaked in a strong southern accent.
Like many new releases of recent times the ‘Silver Sounds’ EP was written and recorded during the pandemic, a period of time that has allowed, Have Gun, Will Travel, to regroup and re-energize after what has been almost twelve years of constant touring, promoting the previous six albums they have released since their inception back in 2006. During this downtime there had been the first major change in the band’s lineup with longtime drummer JP Beaubien being replaced by Sam Farmer who due to the enforced lockdown has had the luxury of two years to embed himself into his new role.
Straight from the opening chords of the first track from this EP, ‘Buyer’s Remorse’, there is a clear dynamic shift and new direction from the band from Bradenton, Florida compared to their most recent albums. Sure, The Byrds, style jangly chords and the infectious hook lines are still there, but they’ve been pumped full of high-octane fuel that drives this anthemic opener at an unfamiliar pace as lead singer and guitarist Matt Burke rebels against the fallacy of the, ‘Great American Dream’, his lyrics spiced full of anger and regret as he demands his money back. At times the sound is slightly reminiscent of The Counting Crowes at their rockiest while the harmony vocal on the chorus and the outro harks back to the 80’s power pop of Toto. Things do slow down for the second number ‘Melancholy Moon (Everything Dies)’ where Burke’s vocals and musical approach drift towards that of Mike Cooley from The Drive-By Truckers, with his typical juxtaposition between the darkness of the lyrics and the brightness of the musical landscape largely created here by the added horn section. In fairness Burke and his bandmates pull this off with a fair level of aplomb, still managing to keep their pop sensibilities despite the solemn subject matter. The third track, ‘Cardiology’, is by far the weakest track on the EP, where too much wordplay tends to lead every line in to a verbal cut de sac, and the overall sound has a hint of too much saccharine, though guitarist Scott Anderson does offer some distraction with his lead runs scattered through out the track.
What this EP exposes more than any other previous release is the band’s punk rock influences which for the first time really seeps through into the songwriting, displaying a greater urgency and attitude. There is no better example of this than on the fourth track, ‘Resist The Machine’, with its heavy opening riff, over-the-top distorted bass and scattergun drumming creating an altogether rockier sound than that which they would be recognised for. The element of surprise helps in turn to creates a level of excitement; however it does lie slightly awkwardly within the overall sound of the collection here. Normality is resumed by track five, ‘Our Fair City’, where Burke, not for the first time, exults in the joys of his home town, having done so on ‘Salad Days’ from the band’s 2009 album, ‘Postcards From The Friendly City’. It is here that the obvious geographical connection of the band’s sound draws greatest comparison to Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, in particular his mid-nineties period such as ‘Wildflowers’, while the homage they pay to their roots is highly reminiscent of Petty’s song from the previous decade, ‘Southern Accent’.
The EP concludes with, ‘Dystopia’, where its intro of acoustic and electric guitar compete for centre stage until Burkes delivers his opening line, “We are the children of the war”, his vocals evoking the sound of early U2 with its anthemic clarion call, which again hints at where the very heart of the band exist. What is slightly disappointing is the fact that this is only an EP, despite the enforced time off the road. The rumour is there will be another EP, to be released in 2023, that kind of begs the question, why not combine the two to make one album? Based on what we have here, this could have been an excellent follow-up to 2019’s, ‘Strange Chemistry’, unless the forthcoming EP is going to be markedly different in sound and style. In the meantime this is on the whole an enjoyable set of songs that hint at a possible new and exciting direction to come from the band.