7 / 10
Remember when you were a teenager first getting into all kinds of cool new music to the point of holding feelings of superiority for all those brainwashed-by-mainstream-radio fools? You were digging anything you could find so long as the preps and jocks at school had never heard of it, be it metal, punk, goth, shoegaze, indiepop, noise, whatever. People would ask you what kind of music you listened to and you'd say "anything but classical and country". You were adamant about it to the point that you steered clear of guys like Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard even though some older folks you respected spoke highly of them. Then you found the Meat Puppets - II LP. Maybe your mind was blown by the sheer genius of it all. What could be more punk and against the grain then a punk band writing a country record? Or maybe you were so entrenched in your ideas of what was cool that you hated it before you even heard it. Fast forward a few years and the Replacements, whose "Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out the Trash" album you loved for its fast midwestern punk tunes, go and release the "I'm In Trouble" single with its country-laden B-side, "If Only You Were Lonely". "Oh no!", you thought, "Not again!...though I must admit, this is a pretty sweet tune." Next thing you know you're borrowing your father's George Jones and Buck Owens records. Things would never be the same again. Fast forward to the 21st century and the guys from All and Armchair Martian are forming Drag the River, Jawbreaker wannabes Red 40 turn into Lucero, members of Assuck start up Whiskey and Co., Avail's Tim Barry writes a country/folk inspired solo record, and Against Me! introduces the clean tone twang of country's past to bearded DIY punks everywhere. All of a sudden punks of all sorts are shamelessly referencing country artists as major influences, and bands like Pretty Boy Thorson and the Falling Angels are playing house shows on bills with bands that sound like everything from Black Flag to Naked Raygun to Crimpshrine to Suicidal Tendencies. And everyone's having a blast!
PBT&TFA lay it on thick with the typical country themes of heartbreak, lonesome travels, alcoholism, self-loathing, and more heartbreak (a favorite lyric: "It seems the hardest part of living is living with myself and if the drinking don't kill me then I'll think of something else"). Just about every song on the record makes some reference to being drunk or fucking up in general, but the songs are so damn catchy that you can't help but sing along anyway, even if you sang practically the same line in the last song. Still, it's easy to pick up on the tongue-in-cheekness of it all and realize these guys just enjoy a good time and are trying their best to make you have one as well. Everyone's invited to this party. The band covers the spectrum from slowed-down bouncy country ballads to outright bashing-and-thrashing barn-burners. This is part of an essential soundtrack for your next bonfire field party where you've got your arms around your best friends with bottles of brew in both fists dancing and hopping and falling all over everything and everyone.