Review Summary: “Great Leaps Forward” represents a band at their crossroads, ultimately coming away with their defining moment.
“Great Leaps Forward” is a risky album title. These titles demonstrate that the band has examined their work and assessed where the improvements need to be made, yet more often than not, they fail to completely relate to the music. We Are the Union’s sophomore release not only attempts to indicate that progress has been made, but takes it that much further to say that something significant has been done here. In a sense, We Are the Union has made momentous progress. These Ann Arbor, Michigan native punk rockers released their debut “Who We Are” under an independent label, remaining both relatively unknown and unsung. “Who We Are” demonstrated a great deal of potential for the quintet, utilizing an accelerated melodic style with infused elements of hardcore and ska. This proved to be intriguing enough to get the band signed on to Paper and Plastic records in the early goings this year; giving their sophomore record somewhat of a rightful meaning.
There is no denying the constant comparisons with ska-outfit Less Than Jake. The break-neck pace, horns, and fiery leads recall their acclaimed peer, but even with that in place, “Great Leaps Forward” reveals We Are the Union as more than Less Than Jake-wannabes. While maintaining a belligerent and anarchic edge, “Great Leaps Forward” doesn’t cease to be melodic and cohesively developed. The musicianship is crafted in such a way that it replicates the very mood and atmosphere of the moment with such virtuosity. We see We Are the Union utilizing blistering leads and thundering distortion when necessary, and transitioning beautifully into melodic and chilled sections. The vocals do not cease to offer alternative perspectives as well, ranging from gang choruses to a callous growl. While the drums and bass seem to drive the tracks as they typically do, the horns provide the personality and flavor that so adequately defines We Are the Union. The album’s fifth cut Strange, Slow, and Old
so sufficiently serves as an epitome of the entire record, for it electrifies, awes, and even courts the listener in just under three minutes time. Strangely enough, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
gives off a reggae vibe, that is apparent in several other arbitrary points in the record. With that said, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
is undeniably the release’s most characteristic and eccentric track, but most significantly suggests that the band has crafted their own sound. As indicated, We Are the Union’s fusion of styles and tempos bodes well for “Great Leaps Forward,” offering that smidgen more that separates it from most conventional punk records.
In hindsight, “Great Leaps Forward” may not have been the ideal title for such an album, but in further review of We Are the Union’s new record, these Ann Arbor natives have made significant strides. Aside from signing a record deal earlier this year, the band appears to be moving in a faster and more productive direction. We Are the Union have developed a cohesive and intriguing release of sorts in 2010; thundering and dazzling their way to bigger and better things, although failing to deliver the ground-breaking record that the title suggests. “Great Leaps Forward” represents a band at their crossroads, ultimately coming away with their defining moment. At least for now.
We’re All Dead
Where’d You Go, Psycho Boy?
Strange, Old, and Slow
We Don't Care If Yesterday Burns, Stoke Up the Fire
Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
One Million Motors