Review Summary: For those who missed The Ataris of the '90s, now's your chance
When I was younger, I couldn’t quite put a finger on exactly why The Ataris were my personal favorite band. They don’t still hold that top spot, but in hindsight, the impact they had on me during my adolescent years makes a good deal of sense. After all, I consider myself quite a nostalgic person, not too different from the band's lead singer, Kris Roe. Anyone familiar with his music knows of his love for photography, and throughout his career he’s always revisiting different times and places that affected him. His vivid recollections have a personal quality to them, like reading through someone’s diary and discovering their best kept secrets. It’s these simple, but relatable factors that gave me a deep connection with The Ataris' music all those years ago. Well over a decade later, I'm thrilled to report the band still know how to successfully merge nostalgic lyricism with good old fashioned rock 'n roll.
It’s no secret The Ataris operate at a snail’s pace; the more time passes, the more their upcoming full-length album feels like a forgotten promise of the past. So, all things considered, their surprise EP, October in This Railroad Earth
, comes as a bit of a relief. Recorded in just a two-day span with the vintage warmth of analog tape, the majority of the songs on the EP were written in the early '90s before The Ataris’ debut album. The result is a fresh, yet familiar batch of songs that are sure to please longtime fans of the band’s music - especially their earlier, less pop-oriented affairs. For the select few who’ve heard their debut, Anywhere but Here
, it shares a similar approach to October in the Railroad Earth
, with shortened song lengths and a more aggressive bite than their later material.
Of the six tracks the band have resurrected from dust, only one of them hits the three-minute mark, while the remaining handful of songs are energetic and straight-forward rockers. ‘Trash Panda’ and ‘Silver Turns to Rust’ get the job done in less than 120 seconds, and could have easily found a comfortable home on the band’s upbeat debut; whereas ‘Peel Sessions’ contains the passionate sense of longing Kris Roe captures so well in his music. The latter is rich with melodies and reflective lyrics as he questions the logic of everyday life. Simply put, it sounds exactly like the kind of tune The Ataris were pumping out in their prime, and its optimistic vibe is sure to force a smile on the collective face of fans. By contrast, ‘They Live, We Sleep’ will come as a surprise to those who aren’t familiar with the band’s earlier work, with distorted guitars and Roe’s screams colliding in an abrupt display of aggression.
The songs on October in the Railroad Earth
may have been conjured up from The Ataris’ past, but the EP feels more like a promise of things to come for the band. Given their track record, nobody can truly predict what they’ll do next, but if the band’s latest surprise EP hints at anything, it’s that The Ataris many of us know and love are still fully intact. Whether or not that means we expect a full length from them soon remains to be seen, but October in the Railroad Earth
will certainly serve its purpose in the meantime. For longtime fans, it’s a welcome trip down memory lane, but it’s also an opportunity for those who missed The Ataris heyday to hear a completely different sound from the band. Long before their cover of ‘The Boys of Summer’ invaded radio stations in 2003, they played a different brand of punk rock, and this is it.