Review: Endless Mike and the Beagle Club - We Are Still At War

It's well-worn ground for a music writer (if I may so liberally self-apply the term) to wax rhapsodic about the way things used to be. Music might not have actually sounded better then, but it's hard to argue against the fact that music does not currently steer the zeitgeist in the same way that it did before cell phones, the Internet, and Uggs.

I'd like to think that high school kids still put on headphones and pore over lyrics inserts as they play through a new record by their favorite band for the first time, the way I know at least a few of us used to. I'd love to think that favorite records still earn the honor over time, as they continue to reveal themselves. And oh, how wonderful it would be to believe that if an artist as vital as Springsteen were to start playing in bars today, everyone would eventually know about it. But times have changed, and all those wistful thoughts and $5 will move you 40 miles down the highway, if you're lucky.

With the release of We Are Still At War, Endless Mike and the Beagle Club have sent their best material to date, recorded live and raw, out into the world to be judged. The band has never been bigger (or louder), and Mike's writing has never been better. A quick perusal of the lyrics reveals gems like this from "Back Into Eden" (which you can stream here):
a stop sign that died in the middle of the street
was a hit and run victim of a patron of irony
lying there waiting for somebody else
to watch over the people who can't stop themselves
does that move you to move or call you to stall?
we all see what we want to in signs after all.
Songs like "Fifty-Six" and "Heavy Handed" continue to get better every time I play them (which is every Goddamn time I get in my car), and the former might be the pinnacle of Mike's writing to date. The 1-2-3 punch of "The Incline of Western Civilazation" --> "Spy vs. Spy" --> "Back Into Eden" is unmatched in any other song sequence I've come across this year.

Still, I'm not sure I'd recommend this record as a starting point to someone that's never heard my favorite band before (that'd still have to be The Husky Tenor). The problem is, when a 19 member band gets a good head of steam behind it, it takes a lot to slow it down. Mike's vocals, which carry those poignant lyrics, can't always cut through the wall of sound.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that's seen The Beagle Club perform before that an album recorded live by all 19 members would be both beautiful and cacophonous, full of before-take chatter, misplayed notes, and the embodiment of Fun and the Punk Rock Ethos. Nor should it raise the eyebrows of anyone who's met the band that they co-wrote and performed it in an abandoned warehouse cum art space in a chaotic fury of creation and sweat. I would make the argument that it was the only way this album could have been made, and it's why it's my favorite offering from them thus far.

Though three of the most lovable things about this band -- Mike's writing, the double-digit collective that is The Beagle Club, and their DIY ethic -- at times clash in WASAW, the result isn't a dud of a record, it's just a higher barrier of entry than I think many people afford music these days. It really needs to be absorbed through headphones the first time through, with lyric sheet in hand. It really needs to be played over and over, as it continues to reveal itself with each spin. It's an anachronism, it's too good for this day and age.

If music -- nay, if rock and roll -- still means as much to you now as it did to you then, you owe it to yourself to let The Beagle Club remind you why you ever started liking it in the first place.

We Are Still At War is available for purchase at craftyrecords.net. Or you could just go to a show and buy it there. Songs from the record can be streamed here and here.

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