With the nondescript cover, and the ambiguous name, Terminus City could have been anything. I was expecting to shake my devil sign to some Swedish codpiece metal. The play button unleashed a crazy train of Ozzy riffing, heavy cymbals and bass bashing. 25 seconds into the song, I was just busting out my lighter when someone realized, "Hey, weíre on TKO, we need to make with the consistently good punk-rock!" And while not the finest American oi band on this label, they do tend to rock hard, so you donít have to. Lead punk Frank (who looks like Ehrlich) has a sandpaper voice, but itís a fine grain. Sometimes heís unconvincing, at about 400 grit. Guillermoís guitar is good, although the self-depreciating "git-tar so-lows" are uncomfortable at points. Excellent drumming and bass drive the songs. Note* seems weíre all on a first name basis with the players.
The first few songs are the best, with excellent momentum for mailbox bashing. Speed and humor are the strong suits. Nice cymbal tapping and backing vocals add to the simple arrangements. Theme song "Terminus City" is short on lyrics, but long on style. You can put this on repeat all day and not get sick of it. "My Castle" moves it further along the highway with tube-shooting guitar work and acceptably moderate solo. Good bouncing bass rhythms to the social lament, "Itís a class war of another kind. They want my shit and they donít mind breaking glass and busting in. They want whatís mine but they wonít win." Gutter punks get theirs in "Punks Not Debt" where Frank (who might be Ehrlichís brother) shows the first signs of weakening. Pushing too hard, he slides off on the unsure verse, but catches up on the chorus. Stained slightly by a dissatisfying git-break. "Iím Running" redeems that quickly with precision and anger. Wes makes a sweet bass run here. Honest vocals spewingí "Thereís a race but I donít know what itís for. I showed up late and they locked the door." But then, as the notes rightfully indicate, "another damn guitar so-lo". It sounds as though Ehrlichís doppelganger interrupts him on purpose, and thankfully. Those are becoming increasingly more awkward.
"Coward" is slower, but tasteful tones with rushing bits to keep it interesting. Now Guillermo gets the idea on "Back Seat", more traditional like The Jamís "Changed My Address" or a cleaner New York Dolls. This oneís a fun countdown song that brings the sense of humor back. Someoneís girl is pedestaled Chuck Berry fast-blues style.
The most political song here is the title track, "Kellnerís Song" which could be and Irish prison tune. Itís got a great feel, drive, and message. Just the underbite vocals are like heís trying to emulate someone else. An otherwise brilliantly executed anthem.
Audience appreciation feeds "Music For The Kids", a good-time jaunt. A live audience would feed this into the all out assault it strives to be. Similarly, "Rumor Mill" is a fine tune that needs something one way or the other. More committed vocals or one less solo would probably do it.
"Fight Tonight" is more like it. Kind of a fast Babihed country-punk feel. Rhythm section Wes and Chris let loose a little more. Frank (Iím pretty sure thatís Ehrlich) stuffs a bunch of words in there with strep-throat singing. Blue-collar rant "Work For A Living" continues the theme started in "Punks Not Debt." Frankís patronizing patriotic vocals sound like heíd rather be doing something other than singing "Time Was Right." And frankly, Iíd rather be listening to something else. Sliding around wide mouthed like heís being forced to sing a song he doesnít like. Itís got more nice, simple rockabilly noodlings and roughhouse backing. Similarly, playground dipthonging on "Thank You" somehow slips past Frankís swollen tongue. Never enough to ruin the flow, but is slightly annoying. Picking up the pace, the boys end as solid as they started. The British influence of "Harold Was A Hooligan" shows in such lyrics as, "He was from Omaha. He had the suss but rode the bus and still lived with his Ma." A great finale, especially when it means the start of the record again.
The flaws on "Justice" are consistent but easily dismissed. Not only will I have this in the car when I open her up and see what she can do, Iím going to be watching Terminus City closely. Iím convinced they are a fantastic band that hasnít done their best work here. Very little keeps this really good album from being a great one.
- Terminus City
- My Castle
- Punks Not Debt
- Iím Running
- Back Seat
- Kellnerís Song
- Music For The Kids
- Rumor Mill
- Fight Tonight
- Work For A Living
- Time Was Right
- Thank You
- Harold Was A Hooligan