Review Summary: they're back!Midwestern Minutes
bats for folk-punk. It acts as another coming-of-age record in a genre that desperately needs an injection of maturity. And lets face it, folk-punk needs Defiance, Ohio. They spearhead this community of happy-clappy anarchists, defining everything about it; its DIY ethics, its passion for politics and its enthusiasm for playing. In sparks, they used to have all three: “Oh! Susquehanna” stung its audience with its rejection of an urbanising world but was more about personal grudges. Nostalgia seeped through that track, and it was matched with a musical unison that proved how mighty the song really is, regardless of who made it, what instruments they used and how much they sold it for. Which is diddly-squat, by the way.
So what’s great about Midwestern Minutes
is that it's “Oh! Susquehanna” eleven times over. Each track is neither obvious nor ambiguous, a balance the band always met with tracks such as “The New World Order” which provided less stale commentary on the Bush-sucks era. Better still, the band learn about structure, because each track complements the last, and each real song (“Cigarettes” and “Diamonds Theme Song” not included) exists long enough to prove itself. It’s their equivalent of Ghost Mice’s Europe
, a tightly-knit travel lodge that shows off the diversity of the world its about. It could even be their Can’t Maintain
, because if Andrew Jackson Jihad can write an album with structure, then Defiance, Ohio certainly can.
They do; they present separate scenes on a romantic and broken society. It’s presented in the true colours of Defiance, Ohio, too. There’s a delightful return to autobiography in “The White Shore” in which the band declare “History is always personal / family is always personal
” as if to personalise their rock beyond its American clichés. It’s already nostalgic enough, and the band is as communal as ever, be it through the simple pleasures of rockin’ out with the gang-vocals of “Her Majesty’s Western Island,” or revelling in the roots of American rock on “You Are Loved,” which echoes Springsteen as it grows into an anthem. It goes without saying that this is the catchiest record in the Defiance, Ohio canon yet.
In other ways, it’s just so great to have the boldest band in folk-punk back. They don’t shy away from amplifiers like their counterparts do, and they aren’t proud of being an acoustics-only deal either. That’s just as well, because “Hairpool” is the best song they have ever put to record. It’s designed ambitiously and - a rarity for these guys - delicately, moving through the phases of a well-structured rock song like boxes to be ticked off. By the time the old-school guitar riffing is over the band have pulled us into their town and immersed us in it, taking us through a miserable experience, and, most importantly, its upshot (“This town is way too small / to ever need the bus / so meet me by the pool they keep open all night for us
”). It plays out like a dreamy chapter in teenage discovery, but it’ll keep its entire audience grinning. So will the rest of Midwestern Minutes
; this is seriously ambitious folk-punk, but it’s as uniting a force as its ever been.