Genre names are bullshit, and can almost never be traced to the true origins of a style. The breed of pop-punk that Red Scare Industries has been unveiling for a decade is almost unrecognizable next to what the name commonly denotes nowadays. Nonetheless, bands like The Copyrights, Direct Hit!, and Elway carry all the attitude and aesthetics of modern punk, but with melodic tendencies and occasional tongue-in-cheek snottyness. Call it what you will, but Toby Jeg’s wildly consistent label is a haven for fast, catchy songs about disenfranchisement, failure, friendship, drinking, and everything in between.
Drawn directly from that vein is Life is a Breeze, the latest from Elgin, Illinois’ The Brokedowns. With a couple of full lengths and multiple splits under their belts, the four-piece have found a sound that recalls the strengths of their aforementioned label mates while injecting extra Midwestern grit. Songs like the anthemic title track and “Born on the Bayou Too” are passionately presented and immediately recognizable. The ironic, upbeat pessimism of “Keep Branson Weird” and its rallying cry of “Our business is failure / and business is great” is undeniable even 15 songs into the album. There’s a warmth in the goofy defeatism that the songs are performed with that comes across even on early listens.
The pace of Life is a Breeze helps it survive 16 tracks. The band sweep from sub 2-minute blasts like “Everything is Immoral” and “Bless This Mess” to the jangly “DIY Space Program”, and a handful of other mid-tempo songs. By stringing songs into one another, and using individual tracks as bridges (“Vapor Chase”), The Brokedowns have come up with an album that feels more like a live set than anything else. As the triumphant closing of “A Child’s Guide to Black Metal” fades out into beach noise, it’s easy to feel the satisfied exhaustion of the production – the continuity of 16 tracks presented as a whole.
If you’re partial to gravelly voices over punchy melodic tracks, you’ll be right at home with Life is a Breeze. A note or two might be off here and there, but it’s all part of The Brokedowns’ appeal. Most important is that the album is genuinely and enthusiastically performed, meeting and exceeding their past output. Another successful release from Red Scare, and a solid entry into the band’s growing catalog.