Release date: June 2007
Label: Fat Wreck Chords
Since the band’s first release on Fat Wreck Chords in 1994 (Another Day in Paradise), Strung Out has been a huge hit on the SoCal punk scene and has also cultivated decent fan bases internationally.
Earlier albums featured a different line-up than the one that created Blackhawks Over Los Angeles, and through the progression of three drummers and two bassists Strung Out has softened up just a little while fine-tuning some undeniable technical talent.
Jason Cruz’s vocals have evolved into a perfect melodic accompaniment to the incredibly strong technical guitar talents of Ross Ramos and Jake Kiley?guitar that has also softened up after 15 years in the industry while maintaining that biting quality of hard punk rock.
Chris Aiken’s skill on bass had an immediate effect on the development of the band, and with Jordan Burns keeping time on the drums, Strung Out has changed from a talented, thrashy punk group into a melodic hard-core punk band that stands alone in terms of technical skill and composition. This most recent record is a full-on reminder of everything good, powerful, and influential in music.
Blackhawks Over Los Angeles has no weak points; there are no songs that wouldn’t be successful singles, no clashing themes, and no disappointing lyrics. ?Downtown? and ?Mission Statement? are perhaps two of the most impressive tracks on the album for sheer musical prowess on both guitars, while ?Letters Home? tackles the issue of sending soldiers to fight in a war whose initiatives they have accepted without real comprehension. The lyrics represent the feelings of a soldier stripped bare of propaganda and battle slogans; a man worried that he may die for reasons he is unsure of.
Strung Out has been on the back burner of the music industry for a few years now, having opted out of the over-the-top marketing campaigns of major music industries in favour of the free creativity offered by Fat Wreck Chords. The band last released a record in 2004 (Exile in Oblivion), and if anyone doubted the band’s ability to progress since that album, Blackhawks Over Los Angeles is going to blow them away.
This is a truly inspiring record by an amazing and understated band, one that I hope follows the trend of more and more successful releases by Strung Out over the last decade.