Down By Law – Redoubt EP

It is always good to hear Dave Smalley’s voice. His vocal work is as distinct as his penchant for consistently good punk rock songwriting. For many like myself, Punkrockacademyfightsong was and always will be a watershed moment of punk rock’s then-burgeoning expansion from underground medium to new found accessibility. And while it was certainly something that translated better for mass audiences, it did not lack the sense of urgency that was displayed in his earlier work in DYS or Dag Nasty. Songs like “Bright Green Globe” and “Hit or Miss” proved that you could still hit hard while sounding like you could sing, hold a note and write a good tune. And while their cover of “500 Miles” was undoubtedly the moment everyone remembers from the album, it was songs like “Goodnight Song” that stuck with me. Punk rockers could be in-your-face but have a softer side, and the music didn’t have to suffer for it.

Now more than 20 years later Smalley and Down By Law are still going strong. On the back of their 2018 full length All In, they’ve released a short EP on new label Pine Hill. This 3-song outing is a quick hit featuring the kind of tracks Smalley and DBL are renowned for; melodic punk rock with its roots still firmly in hardcore. The opening track “At the Redoubt” cuts its mold from Dag Nasty-era hardcore, and when Smalley sings “gotta get away, gotta get out”, you can’t help but think back to a time long ago. It’s punctuated with this soaring guitar solo that comes askew- but sounds absolute fantastic. It’s a great juxtaposition of no-frills hardcore punk and stadium-filling rock that surprisingly works as strange bedfellows.

“For Your Eyes Only” takes on a more rockabilly sheen as its rhythm section snakes around Smalley’s haunting vocal work. It’s a fine example of the many styles and genres Down By Law have infused into their music over their discography. Whether it was the reggae-themed “Radio Ragga” (from 1996’s All Scratched Up) or the rock n’ roll boogie of “Champions at Heart” (from the 2012 album of the same name), Down By Law have always managed to fine tune their brand of punk rock with an impressive array of outside sounds.

Yet Redoubt’s best track is probably the Sam Williams’ penned finale “Boring Things”. Down-tuned dissonance its being called, and its a fair assessment of its straight-to-the-point nature of the song; marked with Williams’ expressive guitar work and another pretty fantastic solo, the song is the band at its most frenetic.

Redoubt is a worthy addition to the Down By Law catalogue. Its only real negative is that it is only three songs long and once you’re done, you’re left wanting more. The band remain faithful to their sound and continue to fly the flag, one of the few remaining sharpshooters amongst the current crop of punk rock pseudo heroes.

(Pine Hill Records)

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