Review Summary: We still need something to rock out to.
The Flatliners were part of the ska/punk scene in the Greater Toronto Area that died a few years ago. The scene based around community centres, teenage promoters and upstrokes was home to a dozen or so active bands. Perhaps it was people growing out of ska, or too many problems finding venues, but shows happened less frequently and crowds dwindled. Ska was dead, and few bands were left standing – the most famous being illScarlett.
Signed to Fat Wreck Chords in their late teens, The Flatliners were one of the bands to meld into the skate punk scene. With The Great Awake The Flatliners all but abandoned the upstroke, releasing a record that fit the 'mature sophomore' cliche pretty much to a tee. While The Great Awake was a step forward for the band, the songwriting was weak in parts, at times with bare chord progressions seeming to bide time until the next hook. There were some great songs (see Eulogy and KHTDR), but the record was missing the tightness you can find on the latest Propaghandi disc to push their skate punk side, and lacked consistently good singing to support the softer moments.
Two-and-a-half years later comes Cavalcade, a record that builds off what they've done before – but now everything is better. The skate punk doesn't overstay its welcome, the softer parts are more interesting, and as a whole the album covers a lot of ground.
While 'Bleed' is pretty much pop-punk, 'The Calming Collection' is skate punk. The band uses every trick in the late-2000's punk playbook to create twelve solid and interesting tracks. The only real problem is that they don't fit together all that well.
On 'Monumental' these guys sound more like fellow GTA group Attack in Black than the ska/punk that they're known for. It's changes like these where you can really hear how this band has grown. Now in their early twenties the band has moved away from ska/punk, and it's probably for the best.
The Flatliners prove they can still push a reggae groove with 'He Was a Jazzman'. The layering of the bouncy and melodic guitar licks give this song some serious ass-shaking power, and Chris Cresswell holds his own singing with his familiar hoarse croon. This is a great song, especially listened to in context of a punk record like this. While The Great Awake's 'This Respirator' was similarly written, 'He Was a Jazzman' builds into something much more.
This record is fun, well-written, and is a great blend of punk (whatever that means) sounds. It may not push the genre in any way, but this familiar style is done right. I still need something to rock out to, and Cavalcade is perfect for that.