Supposedly, the ancient Persians would make laws, and then, they would get drunk to make sure they made the right law. Looking through history, some of our greatest thinkers, writers, and figures have been drunks, and it’s makes you think maybe the Persians had something. That’s not to say all important life decisions should be decided when teetering on a blackout, but sometimes brilliance can be whiskey drenched. Steady Hands explore the inner workings of human nature, while downing a Pabst Blue Ribbon on their proper debut album Truth in Comedy.
The self-proclaimed Rude Boys of Bar Rock serve as the projector for the thoughts of frontman Sean Huber. The band makes a type of pop-punk that has more in common with the likes of The Gaslight Anthem or Menzingers than of Huber’s other band Modern Baseball. Huber’s brand of bar rock draws as much from Woody Gutherie as it does from The Hold Steady. Despite the moshpit-inducing nature of songs like “40X” or “Saint Lucas,” the vocal melodies are just as set in classic folk. Like a DIY continuation of Springsteen, Huber is an amalgamation of so many influences and manages to wear them while having his own sound. The album has touches of heavy blues throttled forward by Huber’s growling yelp.
Lyrically, Huber is narrating experiences that most of us have. In a feature from Punk Rock Theory
, when describing the opening track, he uses the phrase “[E]very night feels like you’re a character from Dazed and Confused.”
Not to discount his experience, but most Americans who have been to high school and have seen the movie can relate to that emotion. Still, Huber is able to narrate these situations with a sense of every man poetry. “Drop D and Dance Beats” captures a sense of nostalgia, while sounding like a cinematic prom song. When describing a night of drunken debauchery, Huber sings:
We paid way over retail price
For a piss warm twelve pack of Keystone Light.
It was worth the price.
Or, maybe it was Natty Light;
Whatever made us famous for just one night.
This is a relatively unremarkable experience, but the conversational nature of the song and the variations on all the parts really makes you feel like you’re sitting in a quiet bar with Huber. The triumphant nature of songs like “40X”, matched with the quiet conversationalist feel of songs like “Christmas at the ‘Vous” create an atmosphere not unlike a rare night where you can get all your friends to come out to your favorite bar. The album’s highlight may be the first single though, “Indifferent Belushi.” In the song, Huber relates to the late SNL comic. Perhaps being the song the album is named for, over an electric piano built instrumental, Huber sings:
Former self, I was laid to rest,
But I thank you for coming to be here
Feel like an indifferent Belushi
Onstage at the end of a party.
I just don’t feel like myself these days,
And I don’t wanna be here.
Passed out in the floor where you left me,
I feel like an indifferent Belushi.
It’s unsurprising that Huber relates to a comic; most great comedy is built on being relatable, but Huber does see the dark side, which is where he places himself. No matter how good things get, life can still be a burden.
Truth in Comedy is an album that seeks to find celebration in mundanity. It succeeds by mixing growing power ballads with folk punk bangers. It’s the type of album that provides company while drinking alone and becomes a nightly soundtrack for a night out on the town. It’s nostalgic without being corny, and it’s honest without seeming so painstakingly earnest.