The Flatliners Transcend Punk Cliches on Their New Album New Ruin
4.7 out of 5 stars
I will be the first to admit that though I have heard of the Canadian punk band The Flatliners before, I had not actually heard their music. I mean there are tons of punk bands from tons of places, and it’s pretty hard to tap into them all.
That said, I am pretty happy I decided to take a Spotify recommendation (which, usually for me, is about 50% good at best) and play through the new album New Ruin which came out a couple of weeks ago (August, 5th, 2022).
I had no idea what to expect. I also almost turned it off after like 20 seconds, because I was trying to find something to kind of have a more “fun” bike ride that morning.
Well, I am ALSO glad that I stuck it out, because while the lead singer Chris Cresswell (also guitarist and a vocalist in the band Hot Water Music who released an album this year) definitely has the ability to do the whole yell-over-the-top-of-a-fast-beat vocal style down, what I did NOT expect was the range and style diversity that comes out over the entire record.
The first song “Performative Hours” is a good showcase of the bands two major styles in one song - a yelling, overtly hardcore punk verse and a melodic, harmony-driven chorus.
This is the band’s 6 full-length album overall, and it is their fourth with independent punk record label Fat Wreck Chords.
For a “punk” band, I don’t think I can pigeonhole the band as just a punk band by any means. I don’t look at their music as only sounding like a punk band. Some bands are firmly punk. I would say The Flatliners are a VERY fluid rock band that can transition genres within songs or albums without anything feeling off.
If I could describe the band in a few random bands mixed together, I would throw Get Dead, Young The Giant, Coheed and Cambria and A Wilhelm Scream as the 4 bands to best describe the sound, and yes, I realize that those 4 bands sound nothing alike. Well, imagine smashing them all together.
That’s my best attempt at describing The Flatliners.
This album has 11 songs on it, and I would say there isn’t a wasted moment on this album.
“Rat King” is one of my favorite songs on the album as well as “Top Left Door.” Both have a more anthemic approach to the songs than a few of the other songs on the album. That’s not to say any song on this album isn’t a banger…they all are.
Speaking of “Top Left Door,” I would say between that and a couple of other songs on the album like “It’ll Hurt” and “Under a Dying Sun” you get the full scope of what this band can really do.
A punk heart bleeds through all of the music, but the songs can sound more like anthem rock or even prog rock at times.
The band has been around for 20 years now, and you can tell that they are true craftsmen of their music and don’t just rest on what they have achieved.
On the funnier side of things, the band released a series of singles for “Performative Hours,” “Souvenir” and “Rat King” that showcase a storyline of an off-the-rails, fictional talk show host named Ron Regal who basically gets hammered on Vodka during a taping of his show and cuts his hand only to find out in the next video that he has SEEMINGLY died from that injury or from some other condition (possibly alcohol poisoning).
Of course, the “Souvenir” video on its own would not seem humorous if it wasn’t for the previous song setting the scene.
Now, not to give you any spoilers on how or why, but Ron Regal DOES make an appearance in the 3rd and final installment of the story arc with “Rat King.”
Anyway, back to the album itself, I would say that every song on here is really good, and yeah, you may need a few minutes to get adjusted to the singing style, but for me, once a good chorus is belted out, the rest of the album pretty much unlocked itself.
I think both hardcore and non-hardcore punk fans get what they want from a band like The Flatliners, and that’s pretty cool.
And just to throw a twist on everything, the band put out a six and a half minute avant-garde ballad on the final track called “Under a Dying Sun” that will simultaneously have you asking yourself, “Wait, what’s this?” and “How good is this?”
Well, it's REALLY good. My favorite track on the whole album.
I think without this final song on the album, I may have scored this a tenth of a point or two lower, but this one song is so good that it crept closer to a 5.0 based on the merits of that song alone.
Proof that bands don’t need to just stick with one sound across albums and within songs, and for a band that’s been around this long, I can only imagine they have even more to unlock if they so desire.
I highly recommend this album.