Going All In
During the ‘90s, California punk bands were aplenty. Groups like NOFX, the Offspring and Bad Religion found great success within the punk genre and even in the mainstream radio on some levels. However, with a surplus of these West Coast groups, many fell under the radar – Down By Law being one of them. Down By Law formed in 1989 after lead singer Dave Smalley left another punk rock band, All. The group released seven records, including their well-reviewed punkrockacademyfightsong, before going on hiatus in 2003. The group reformed in 2008 and are back with their newest release All In.
Anyone who listens to older Down By Law will be surprised with All In. It is a change of pace from the music a die-hard fan may have fallen in love with, but this isn’t a negative. The differences in sound here show a more mature group who have only gotten better at the instruments they play. The gritty punk sound has aged but the punk foundation is still there.
“Aperture” is a perfect opener, starting with a great riff that is instantly catchy. Smalley and Sam Williams guitar work is really the highlight of the album as a whole and this track starts that path. The guitar solo goes in many different directions and the climax of the song in the last 15 seconds is extremely satisfying as the drums, guitar chords and bass all crash at the same time. “Rebrand It” follows “Apertures” guitar success with a chorus hook that is sort of out nowhere compared to the verse but fits well within the song.
“End of Rhyme” has great drums from Hunter Oswald that build around the twinkly guitar riff that follows the song throughout. “Undone” has nice horn solos that add to the great instrumentals that the whole album has to offer. “Infatuation” has almost a riff that sounds almost like Ride’s “Leave Them All Behind” but with a rock and roll spin. Speaking of the old shoegaze band, the album closes with “Ride,” which accentuates the album’s strengths as a whole.
All In is a success on many fronts. It is tough in 2018 to successfully sport the aging punk band thing, but Down By Law has created something that anyone can enjoy, whether you know of the band or not. The release changes the mistakes made by the 2013s Revolution Time, which shadows the failures of aging punk bands trying to release new music. Here, they right the wrong. Smalley’s vocals are very well produced and sound less nasally than it did in the past release. Plus the mixing of the guitars on All In complement his voice perfectly, especially on tracks like “Mountain.” Overall, a great direction for the band to turn to.