Stray Bullets – Scars and Strife Forever EP

Stray Bullets
Scars and Strife Forever EP

There are a great many underappreciated joys in the world, but when it comes to music, it seems as if sometimes the simplest stuff can be surprisingly good. There’s nothing flashy about Stray Bullets self-released EP – there aren’t any wanky guitar solos or bursts of fancy studio production magic. What this Boston quartet offers up is a quick burst of simple, strong, and energetic punk.
The mood of Scars and Strife Forever is unique, as the EP is a lot of fun musically, though lyrically, a majority of the themes are socially oriented. Of course, there’s no in-depth politically commentary or anything contained within, but the band gives off the vibe of having honest opinions rather than just taking the cheeseball route of writing songs that seem socially conscious because it’s ‘cool’.
Of course, even amongst the bed of social commentary and opinionizing, the best track on Scars and Strife Forever turns out to be the ‘love-gone-wrong’ song, “Gone.” The track thrives on a third-wave ska-style rhythm guitar that backs a darting, crunchy lead, while singer Jon Cauztik gets reflective, reminiscing about, “Making plans and making out or just smoking cigarettes / I could write a million songs and still not touch on what it meant.” The sentiment is simple, the song is catchy, and the chorus really does carry that anthemic, pour your heart out and hollar along sincerity that seems to be desperately lacking from a majority of the ‘punk’ I’ve been exposed to lately.
The complacent lament of the thrashy “Channels” is followed by the (only slightly) tongue-in-cheek, trigger-happy finger-pointing of “Crossfire” (featuring the album’s best lyric, “It’s like someone brought a f*ckin’ atom bomb into a fistfight”). “PCI” swings back to a more peppy, ska-tinged rhythm, lyrically slagging manifest destiny (“She’s bummin’ change for gas and smokes / Her dream seems out of reach”) and subtly dropping props to the Beach Boys. “America” mimics the previous track musically while taking a few harsh shots at the government (“And I never put trust in the greed and the lust and the way you don’t bleed when the factories bust”), while “S.D.B. (Subterranean Dopesick Blues)” plays lyrically off Bob Dylan to tell the story of ‘Johnny’ and ‘Bonnie’s’ drug-addled lives.
It seems that perhaps what works best for Stray Bullets is the band’s underlying sense of sincerity. The disc itself features a dedication to Joe Strummer, and by referencing Bob Dylan and the Beach Boys as well, the band seems to be showing a dedication to actual music, and not money or girls or MTV and so on and so on … Scars and Strife Forever manages to wear its social colors on its sleeve, yet still keep a very fun and loose vibe about it – a skill vastly underappreciated within all the heavy-handedness that seems to fill ‘punk’ scenes anymore. This EP’s simple, but effective, and good stuff indeed.