Craftily mixing pop-punk with varying degrees of ska, Michigan’s We Are The Union’s newest full length You Can’t Hide the Sun certainly had a high standard to live up to after the on-point songwriting of their last LP Great Leaps Forward. Thankfully though, You Can’t Hide the Sun has a bounty of strong hooks and a touch of horns that translate an often direly honest record. If there was any thought of these guys not being able to keep up the bar they set themselves last time, this album proves We Are The Union are more than able to keep their songwriting up without watering down their sound in the process.
An instant burst of energy opens the record with “Dust on the Hourglass,” as the band’s upstart pop-punk sprinkles the horns and double-time drumming to set the tone for a strong opener. The slower bridge lays the foundation for some of the less punk moments of the record as heard later, but it also serves as a point in the band’s use of dynamics. “If I Can’t Smoke or Swear, I’m Fucked” follows a similar feel, boasting a faster tempo with barreling drums and solid melodies – a welcome kick when a good chunk of this record feels a bit slower in comparison. That isn’t to say the mid-tempo or less aggressive tempos don’t hit as hard. “Live Like Mitch” is heartfelt, but the barebones first chorus is what sells the rhythmic sways and ska twang – much like the mellower “…And Fuck the Rest” or the slightly disconnected beginning of “Delta. Oscar. Whiskey. November.”
Lyrically, the album has some highs and lows. Finding a middle ground between poetic spilling and metaphoric penning, it’s arguably the selling point of the album as far as getting it from good to great. “Live Like Mitch” is a tugger even if you’re not overly familiar with the story of the person behind it, while “Delta. Oscar. Whiskey. November.” gets deep into a reflective struggle without getting overly cliche. Other times though, it’s a little tough to figure out exactly what is going on. “I Want You to Hit Me as Hard as You Can” opens with a strange line about exhaust pipe eyes, making it a little unusual as a starter for the friendship story of this track. For the most part though, these are pretty on-par pop-punk lyrics that have their moments (‘If it’s best to fight fire with fire, then how do you fight indecision?’) sprinkled throughout the album. Pair that with a pretty strong ability for the band to bounce back and forth between fast and slow without much of a hinge, and you can hear that these guys know what it takes to pen a good ska-punk album.
They said the third time can be the charm, and for We Are The Union, that seems to be the case. While it’ll take some time to see if this album is the one that will break them into the upper echelon of the ska kingdom, they can rest assured that You Can’t Hide the Sun stands as a strong followup to Great Leaps Forward. Whether you’re a fan of ska or a pop-punk fan getting a bit bored with the current scene, this is an album that is easy enough to get into regardless of whether the band is chugging along or chilling out a bit.