Tumbledown: A new, pop-punk-a-billy sound from MXPXer Mike Herrera
Thoughts on the Bremerton band’s debut full-length
I sat down to write about this album — the self-titled debut full-length from MXPX front man Mike Herrera’s new side project — at least ten times. But it didn’t feel right until I had a beer in hand.
That’s not just because all writers are drunks. Nor is it some schtick or means of “bearing the unbearable.” There’s just something about the taste of a good beer that fits right in with the texture of Tumbledown.
Then, of course, there’s the first song — “Let’s Drink.” Following that carousing, though somewhat somber, ode for drinking ’til you fall down, there’s the drinkin’ and fightin’ in track 7 (“Came Here to Fight”), and, later, Jon Snodgrass’ slurred backup vocals on song 10 (“Son of a Gun”). Then, there’s “sitting alone at the bar, drinkin’ for two;” “drinkin’ cause there’s nothing else to do;” “because you got a plan that just can’t lose: drinkin’ all the booze at the Kitsap County Fair.”
It’s an appropriate album to come out of a heavy-swillin’ town like Bremerton.
Though Herrera said most Tumbledown songs came from thd boredom. It’s where the album was born, recorded and produced – at Herrera’s Monkey Trench Studios, an old two-story house-turned-pro studio in the heart of the city.
I remember when I first heard word of the MXPX front man’s country project, featuring the guys from the Rocky Point All Stars. At first I couldn’t believe it. I half expected Herrera to slap a whiskey-drenched western twang on top of the distinct sound he’d wielded all these years with MXPX. But, while undoubtedly bourbon-flavored, he keeps it straight ahead and sticks to his signature storytelling style — both in singing and, perhaps even more so in songwriting.
iTunes lists the album (released May 19 in stores and online) in its country genre, but it’s more than a mere country record. There are flashes of Herrera’s patented pop punk and splashes of surf rock, there’s blues guitar and barbershop harmonies and a bit of honky-tonk. I think I even heard a mandolin waltz somewhere in there.
“What it sounds like depends on who you are,” Herrera says. “We’re different than a country band, different than a punk band, different than a rockabilly band.”
And while the drink plays a prominent role throughout, the album carries a host of related themes: there’s blue collar songs and quit your job songs, songs of regret, songs from the road, songs of philosophy and growing old.
There are even a few odd gems like “Butcher of San Antone,” about an assassin vigilante whose stiletto separates meat from the bone.
It’s that kind of storytelling, Herrera said, which led the longtime punker to Tumbledown’s country core long before there was even a band called Tumbledown. Good country, he notes, is all about being organic and real, “coming from a place that’s true to who we are.”
It sounds more like campfire. – (7/10)