03.Take It to Heart
05.Grace and Virtue
06.No Greater Fight
10.Our Better Nature
12.Running on Fumes
Release date: April 21
Label: Fat Wreck Chords
Reviewed by Chad Jensen
Other than Bad Religion, Good Riddance might be the most influential punk band in my life and many of you who read this review can probably say the same. Primary songwriter and vocalist, Russ Rankin, has the knack to craft a brutal, hard-hitting hardcore song on one track, and on the very next, a poppy love song.
As a lyricist, Rankin has a unique ability to articulate deep philosophical and political messages and condense them into a song we can all related to. In this regard, he takes backseat only to Bad Religion’s songwriting duo of Greg Graffin and Brett Gurewitz. Rankin’s words cover a wide-ranging variety, such as veganism, misogyny, post-traumatic stress disorder, family expectations, political commentary, women’s rights, sexual virtue, sappy love and much, much more.
I’ve had the honor of sharing the stage with Good Riddance, and having met them, I can say that they truly honor the DIY approach and punk rock ethos. And each member of the band is truly passionate about punk rock and what Good Riddance means to people.
After more than a decade of cranking out their own phenomenal blend of melodic hardcore, GR called it a career back in 2007, because that passion had begun to fizzle. The daunting task of competing in the ever-evolving culture of the music business had worn thin for them.
They played a series of farewell shows in their home state, including a date at the Catalyst in their hometown of Santa Cruz, CA., which they recorded live and released as “Remain In Memory”—one of the best live punk rock albums of all time. Fast forward to 2012 and GR began to get that itch to perform again.
They started by playing shows and some big festivals, with no plans of creating new music. It didn’t take long for them to feel the pull of writing new material, which they finally did, and recorded with Bill Stephenson at the Blasting Room in Fort Collins, CO.
The result is “Peace In Our Time”, a 14-track blazing melodic hardcore record that comes in under 26 minutes. The opening track is “Disputatio”, which begins with a gruff bassline by Chuck Platt and rolling drums, laid down by one of the best drummers in the Fat Wreck catalog, Sean Sellers.
Once Luke Pabich’s guitars come in, your blood is pumping. When Rankin finally makes his entrance, there is no doubt who you’re listening to—Good Riddance is back! The band does a tremendous job of keeping up the phenomenal tradition of killer opening tracks here.
Their last full length album before they broke up, “My Republic”, is an amazing record, and “PIOT” follows the same path and feels like the natural sequel. However, if there’s anything different about “PIOT” than “My Republic”, or any of their previous records for that matter, its that the songs are very fast and relatively short.
They don’t follow the verse-chorus-times-three formula that is the custom of most punk rock song structures. Rankin and company keep it short and sweet and the result makes you want to repeat the previous song, rather than skip on to the next, because the melody and impact are so immediate and short-lived.
GR didn’t return to the “poppy” well much on “PIOT”, with the exception of “Grace and Virtue”, which follows the path laid down by Rankin on records past. Rankin’s vocal has always been melodic and has always skirted the borderline of a hardcore scream. On “PIOT”, however, we find Rankin mostly singing, rather than screaming, which could be more of a result of his weathered vocal chords, than a planned songwriting strategy. But the result is excellent and more of a melodic GR record.
Sellers' drums on “PIOT” are as powerful and tight as they’ve ever been. When he left the band, following “Operation Phoenix”, I couldn’t help but feel that something was missing from the band’s sound. GR needs Sellers' unique brand of precise percussion. He is as integral to GR’s sound as Rankin’s vocals or Pabich’s guitars. Fortunately, Sellers returned to the band in time for "My Republic".
Speaking of Sellers, his performance on “Our Better Nature” gives me the proverbial goosebumps. There’s a millisecond pause at the end of the bridge that leads to the chorus and it’s so tight, it emphasizes the following chorus with great power.
The production on “PIOT” is reminiscent of “My Republic” and shows the savvy hand of the previously mentioned Bill Stephenson, who is the best at honing that hardcore sound laced with melody that we’ve come to expect and look forward to in his work as a producer.
“Dry Season” displays those octave guitar riffs leading up to the verse that have become the calling card of GR, as best exemplified on some of the best songs in their catalogue, such as “Weight of the World” and “Shadows of Defeat”.
There is not one track on “Peace In Our Time” that you’ll want to skip. Each song blazes and stands on it’s own merit. With this album, Good Riddance honors the precedent set by Lagwagon on their latest effort “Hang”, that shows that Fat Wreck Chords’ illumni bands, the ones who helped build the label from the ground up, still have something relevant to say more than 20 years later, and can still be found leading the way on the top of the punk rock mountain. Four out of four stars.