stream Western Addiction’s new LP ‘Frail Bray’ & read a track-by-track breakdown
San Francisco punks Western Addiction released just one full-length during their initial run as a band in the early mid/2000s, and now their reunion run is about to double that. As mentioned, they're following 2017's Tremulous, which was their first album in 12 years, with the new album Frail Bray on May 15 via Fat Wreck Chords (pre-order). This one was produced by Jack Shirley (Deafheaven, Jeff Rosenstock, Joyce Manor, etc), and his crisp, hard-hitting production style is perfect for Western Addiction's tightly wound melodic hardcore songs. This album is just ripper after ripper, and you can hear it for yourself a couple days early -- a full stream premieres in this post.
"This record is about hope, rejuvenation, motherhood and positivity through grief," vocalist Jason Hall says. "Our last record, Tremulous, was brimming with despair and I had an epiphany that without hope, we have nothing. Dire or not, we must try."
Jason also gave us an in-depth, track-by-track breakdown of the LP (which he also did for Tremulous), and you can read that below while you listen.
TRACK-BY-TRACK BREAKDOWN BY VOCALIST JASON HALL
1. "The Leopard and the Juniper"
The title of this song comes from a T.S. Eliot poem called "Ash Wednesday." His words, like Hemmingway’s, are earthly magic. They just have a “way” that most humans can’t quite get to. I can’t even understand what they mean sometimes but I just know they are special. The image of this giant beast under a tree was beyond vivid. I don’t believe that people are struck with divine intervention and the songs just come, but the universe is good at telling me when a title or theme presents itself. It’s the music part that I have to really struggle for. The song is an Animal Farm-like allegory about capitalism destroying the world and the have-nots drawing a line like Michael Douglas in a Mormon shirt with a baseball bat. Brenna [Red] from The Last Gang sings backup on this and a few other songs. Her voice is incredible.
2. "They Burned Our Paintings"
This song details the most notorious art exhibition the world has ever seen that happened in Munich in 1937. The idea came from seeing the Magritte exhibit at SF MOMA. He was on the tail end of the degenerate art scare and the threat of his work being destroyed led me back to this art show. There is a great documentary on YouTube about it. It seems incredible that this art was seen as something so dangerous that it had to be destroyed so as not to corrupt society. I make a poor attempt at speaking German in the song, bitte verzeih mir. There is a little tribute to one of my favorite bands, Belle and Sebastian in the line, “Go tell the minister, modern life is sinister.” The super riff in this song caused some atomic grumbling in the band because it almost feels like some kind of ZZ Top southern boogie. I may play guitar like I have two left hands with oven mitts but this riff is pretty hot, it just took Tony to play it “right.”
3. "Frail Bray"
The goal of the album was to make a big, bright hardcore-punk, rock and roll record. I can never understand why people bother to go into a studio and then make a muffled sounding record. We wanted the performance to be hot and messy (like we had a choice) and the production to be like crystal thunder, which Jack Shirley (producer) definitely delivered. Therefore, we welcomed “big rock.” The giant riff at the end caused some tension in the band but we tried to not be afraid of elements that made us uncomfortable. We love the song “Big Gun” by AC/DC so why not try for that feeling. We played this for the first time at an art show and as soon as we hit that riff, someone in the front row was just feeling it and I knew we had something. “Clarity like a twenties painter” is one of my favorite lines on the record and it’s a reference to the movie Midnight in Paris. It also contains the original title of the record “Helle Époque” which is a play on the era La Belle Époque. This song is about low-level, persistent, simmering, lifetime depression, something that is always there and never really goes away no matter how hard I try.
This was the last song written for the record and we were pleasantly surprised by the outcome. It’s a straight-forward ripper with the structure of a classic country-western, '50s rock and roll song, and it even features some Moog. Darius Koski from Swingin’ Utters played tambourine because, surprisingly, that instrument is so damn hard to play correctly. I tried my best to interject melody throughout this record instead of barking like a lunatic all the time. The song is a manifesto for better living, the threat of hope and aggressive positivity. I don’t believe in violence but I do believe in passive resistance and speaking up. I encourage everyone to be bold about making this world a better place.
5. "Rose’s Hammer I"
My wife is a certified doula and I’ve been lucky enough to glean some information about childbirth. In the way I care about rock and roll, she is fascinated with motherhood and childbirth. It makes my pursuits look shallow because childbirth is one of the most powerful, misunderstood and disrespected events on Earth. When I think of true power, I don’t think of missiles or politics, I now think of bringing life into the world. I wanted to write a song that had two parts with a related theme. This part celebrates that power and sheds light on generational misogyny and lack of respect for motherhood.
6. "Rose’s Hammer II"
The second half of the song reflects the depth of the power of motherhood. I read an article about a woman who wanted to be a mother so badly that she murdered another mother and took her baby. It sounds insane but part of me understood how strong the desire to be a mother was and how that could drive someone to take extraordinary steps. The beginning of the song has a Queens of the Stone Age/Cream type groove. Darius also plays violin and viola during the bridge and it just sounds beautiful.
The title comes from the Matisse painting, Laurette in a Green Robe. It is about an imagined, hopeful utopia, life after the great healing of Earth, some kind of heaven or a grand civilization where everything is wonderful and we respect all creatures. We put a great deal of thought into the cadence of our records and make sure it is balanced, varied and not too long or fatiguing. I think it’s selfish when bands release 14 – 18 song records. It can make a great record “just ok” if you don’t have the wherewithal of restraint. We have lots of mid-tempo songs and we needed a “bonehead blazer” as I referred to this one. This is actually a really old song but we changed up the lyrics. We needed a pitter. I invite you to run into each other when we play it.
8. "Utter Despair"
I think this song is pretty tough. It touches on various worlds but I was experiencing some pretty intense anxiety. The daycare where my daughter went years ago was robbed at gunpoint, our car was broken into, one of my favorite aunts passed and it was exponential misfortune. When you have a family, this becomes serious. I even slept on the couch with a baseball bat one night. An acquaintance of ours even lost their teenage son and then their truck was broken into and all of their work tools were stolen. I can’t image the heartache of losing a child, and when this theft happened, I remember them saying, “Well, I guess they just needed it more than us.” I thought that was so powerful and selfless and that’s what a truly elevated being says. I also reference some David Bowie lyrics from “Diamond Dogs,” the best song! This song used to contain swearing but I made a conscious decision to remove all curse words from the record. I try to use blue language sparingly, and only for emphasis. Profanity is for the wordless.
9. "Wildflowers of Italy"
I think words with visual imagery are quite powerful. I was looking up different kinds of flowers at work (I name things for a living) and I happened upon a list of native wildflowers in Italy. It seemed romantic. This is another song about perpetual hope, regeneration and the Earth having the magic ability to heal itself, if we could just get out of the way. I’m also Italian and I loved touring Italy. This sounds crazy, and I’m a married man, but when you are away from human contact for a while when touring, you just wish someone would hug you. We were playing this incredible venue in Livorno in a building that used to be a tuberculosis asylum since it’s near the clean air of the Ligurian Sea. After the set, some of the fans come up and kiss you on both cheeks as a thank you for playing their town. It was just the sweetest gesture ever. I don’t know if we’ll ever be big enough for a crowd to sing back to us but I would love to give this one a try, in Italy. This song is quite strange. It is almost a mix of Bleach-era Nirvana mixed with Southern rock riffs, like if Molly Hatchet fought Tad. Darius from Swingin’ Utters sang on the bridge and played a little piano.
10. "We Lived in Ultraviolet"
This was the first new song I wrote for the record. I usually come in with a song about 92% done but it needs flavor and style and that’s where the guys come in. They fix the Frankenstein FIRE BAD cadence of the riffs and improve the structures. The title used to be “Brontide Sunshine” which is a reference to my little daughter and her thunderous happiness and glow. This is a love song to my family, each member a special being. If you really think about it, you and you only get to know a set of people in a certain way. No one else will ever know them the way you do, and therefore, that interaction is special and unique.
11. "Deranged by Grief"
We had a few songs leftover from the Tremulous sessions. It wasn’t because they weren’t worthy, we simply ran out of time and couldn’t finish. This is very much in the spirit of Dead Kennedys or DI, think “Richard Hung Himself.” This sounds ridiculous and cliché, but to me, “punk” has a certain “sound” and I don’t mean “power chords” or “anti-establishment” lyrics, etc., etc. It’s a half-step chord progression that sounds like sonic depression and the rudimentary construction is what makes it special. It is actually a gift because I don’t think accomplished, virtuoso players can get there. Punk is the bones, and that’s all you need. I like to combine topics in songs by a universal theme and at the time I was listening to a lot of black metal and watching documentaries (Until the Light Takes Us, One Upon a Time in Norway, etc.). I was also doing the EXACT same thing with Simon and Garfunkel, who are equally intense and subversive, if you listen closely. The song is about depression but it’s also about trying to find happiness. I imagined a black metal person just wanting to be happy without the pressure of being “true.” What if I flipped the cross upside, upside down? Would my friends not like me? And if you tell anyone that I AM happy, well, I’ll eat your friends, a la Mayhem. The second half references the story about Garfunkel getting a role in a movie and bailing on Simon to finish a record, that’s what “The Only Living Boy in New York” is about. I like how it’s a classic sounding punk song, but the chorus is pure pop, and it ends with just the grossest note. Quite fitting.