Record of the Week: Straw Man Army: SOS LP

Straw Man Army: SOS 12” (D4MT Labs) I love so much music that I rarely have a definitive album of the year, but Straw Man Army’s first LP, Age of Exile, was that for 2020. That album sounded so fresh, its impact intensified by landing during one of the scariest parts of the pandemic, when everything suddenly seemed so real and terrifying. Punk has such a long, complex, and exciting history and many of us are so immersed in it that contemporary bands can seem strangled by context. Maybe it’s the way the bands present themselves or maybe it’s just the way I listen to them, but thinking too much about how a band fits into punk’s history or where their allegiances lie within today’s complex scene politics can get in the way of actual communication, of an artist sending an important idea to their listeners through this potentially magical medium. Somehow Straw Man Army got around all that on Age of Exile, making music that sounded important and relevant, like someone whispering something into your ear that you know is going to change your life forever. And they keep that magic going on their second album, SOS. Things are a little different this time, though. We know Straw Man Army a little better (we also got the Her Majesty’s Ship OST in 2021, which showed the band at their most daring and experimental), and they reveal even more sides of themselves on SOS, most potently on the climactic track “Beware,” which finds their urgent and confrontational anarcho punk drifting toward gentle and melodic pop. Their lyrics feel as real and as important as ever too, a portrait of a planet and a species in turmoil, unable to push back against their histories’ relentless momentum. This is why we’re here folks, for records like this.

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