Review Summary: The only good thing to ever be associated with the Kottonmouth Kings in any capacity.
I’ll be honest: most local bands suck unfathomable amounts. The sheer number of Underoath-clones that seem to infest the local club scene in south Florida is just about on par with the number of middle aged housewives listening to James Blunt on the local “80’s, 90’s, and today” radio station while driving their kids back and forth to soccer practice. Enter Stuart, Florida’s Last Laugh; a band devoted to playing their own unique brand of melodic punk rock accented by classic metal musicianship, hardcore breakdowns, and emotionally poignant lyrics. Their new album, No Regrets
, is not just a throw back to the skate punk of the 90’s, but also a step forward in nearly all directions.
The most immediately recognizable feature of Last Laugh is the instrumental prowess of every member of the band. Guitarists Chris Ziemba and Matt House shred through some stellar lead lines all over the album, showing quite a developed metal influence. On tracks like Your Distraction
, Ziemba and House display some excellent fret aerobics throughout, sounding almost like a bastardized version of metal pioneers Iron Maiden at times. Bassist/vocalist Scott Fereshetian also lays down plenty of original lines, staying as far away as possible from playing the guitarists’ root notes, and contributing excellent fills left and right. Drummer Les Jolliffe provides a solid backbone for the rest of the band to elaborate on, while never getting overly technical (he is certainly no Brann Dailor). What’s unique about Jolliffe is that he is one of the few punk drummers to use a larger kit as well as a double-bass petal, which certainly works to the band’s advantage on tracks like Burn the Sky
where he contributes wardrobe incinerating fills that would make many metal drummers weak in the knees.
Although No Regrets
most closely borrows its primary style from the southern California skate punk of bands like Strung Out, NOFX, and Lagwagon, it also avoids the dreaded ‘Pennywise’ syndrome quite effectively. Plenty of variety can be found on tracks like Overboard
which begins with an eerie piano melody and turns into an eerie reflection on lead singer/songwriter Charlie Tobin’s past relationships. At The Top
begins with a somber acoustic guitar and with a speedy drum roll turns into a shredding punk anthem. Gone…
closes out the album in similar form, but sounding more like a traditional folk song before being kicked into 5th gear after a welcome piano break and immediately launched into a shredding octave solo.
Lyrically, No Regrets certainly isn’t revolutionary or even outstanding, but merely good and, at times, great. The topics range from Tobin’s personal relationships (the aforementioned Overboard
and the Millencolin-esque Leeches
), the standard punk fare of politics (Your Distraction
, Cut Me Loose
), and the loss of a close friend (No Regrets
). Lyrically, Tobin is at his peak when singing about the latter, which was actually the inspiration for the majority of the album. While the lyrical topics may seem a bit contrived, the lyrics themselves are quite good, showing plenty of promise and some occasional moments of brilliance.
But lest we forget, this is a punk record from a young band, so it is not without flaws. As much as the band does try to inject variety, some songs just seem to be rehashing some old ideas, namely Taken Away
and Ground Dead
. Production also tends to be a bit of an issue, especially with Tobin’s vocals which sometimes sound a bit too much like a cross between Dexter Holland and Nikola Sarcevic due to the obvious attempt to cover up his deficiencies in range. The guitars and bass fare well through the amateur-ish production job (what else can you expect for a band on the Kottonmouth Kings label??), although the drums tend to sound like a bad demo most of the time.
All issues aside, the good certainly trumps the bad on No Regrets
and makes quite an enjoyable record. For fans of punk, there are few better releases this year from the genre. No Regrets
is technically proficient, lyrically astute, and overall well written, with that extra kicker that so much in modern punk is missing: inspiration and variety. After all, who said all punk had to only have three chords?
Reccomended Tracks: Cut Me Loose, Burn the Sky, Your Distraction, At the Top