Review Summary: In defense of immaturity.
There are few albums in recent memory more one-dimensional than Only Death Is Real.
From its eye-rolling, “My Immortal”-esque title to the lyrics contained within, there’s nothing remotely articulate about Stray from the Path’s latest LP. One song samples the now-iconic but painfully overused “they’re not sending their best…” Donald Trump sound bite. Another repeats “The price is wrong, bitch!” nine times. If you’re looking for mature, fleshed-out political discourse, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more subpar piece of music.
And yet, I wouldn’t call it an album without merit. Rather, it succeeds where many of its contemporaries have failed: by having some balls. Take, for example, modern punk titans Rise Against, whose last four albums have established little more than “Tim McGrath is angry at things.” What things is he angry at? How do they cause him enough discomfort to fill nine years’ worth of music? I sure as hell don’t know, and frankly, I doubt Tim does either.
Only Death Is Real,
despite its cliche, repetitive rap metal songwriting and ham-fisted lyrical content, is at the very least about
something. Drew York and company clearly hold some firm beliefs and have no qualms about putting them on record. Their lyrics, clumsy as they may be, serve as specific and scathing indictments of the American political climate. Throughout the record, Stray from the Path relentlessly berate xenophobia, the “alt-right,” post-election hate crimes, the mainstream media, and both political parties, even offering an enthusiastic endorsement of Richard Spencer’s widely-publicized encounter with a fist. Again, though they by no means offer deep or thought-out commentary on these topics, I give them credit for at least addressing them. If nothing else, Only Death Is Real
is uniquely of the times, an increasingly rare quality in today’s punk scene. York is no Thomas Paine or Ralph Emerson or, hell, even Zack De La Rocha, but perhaps that’s even part of the appeal.
I can completely understand why one might label this a "bad" album from an objective standpoint. For all I know, it may very well be one. But at the very least it’s an authentic sort of bad, a bad that encompasses the psyche and ethos of a generation. Only Death Is Real
is the soundtrack to a millennial revolution, and though such a revolution may prove ill-conceived and ill-fated, it’s the product of passion. And it’s this same raw, visceral passion that ultimately propels Stray from the Path - stumbling, bumbling, and out of breath - across the finish line.