The bald eagle is an American institution, a symbol of our freedom and pride. It is the focal point of many a Successories poster, its majestic pose embodying the phrase “Excellence,” printed in all-caps serif font just underneath. The bald eagle has also been lampooned because of its unwitting attachment to conservative American traditions. Sam the Eagle, a classic Muppet character, was exactly the sort of humorless patriot (and therefore quite hilarious) that would buy such a motivational poster, and let’s not forget Freedom the Fighting Eagle, a beefed-up commando action figure with the head of an eagle. Poor bird, it’s not his fault we’re such douchebags. Ah, but Bald Eagle the band is something of the antithesis to absurd conservatism and power ties. They represent a completely different American tradition, that being the party-hard, out of control, beer guzzling motherfucker who just wants to have a good time. And what a good time there is to be had with their second album, Hot Shoulders.
The Columbia, Missouri quartet revels in the great American institution of aggressive, yet melodic and spastic post-hardcore, bringing to mind the burly guitar acrobatics of Drive Like Jehu and Rye Coalition, while maintaining a jittery intensity, like that of Nation of Ulysses. The opening riff of “Those Are Cobras, Man” has almost a classic rock sound to it, beefy and bluesy, yet primed to explode any second, and it does just that. Soon enough, riffs begin spiraling into a frightening inferno beneath shrill screams of “they’ve got the venom in `em!” “Jammin’ the Wedge” begins with more fanfare, with burly crashes as if the band is stomping and snorting just before they begin to charge. Once they do begin their forward momentum, the song is a bit less straightforward, more meandering in its riffage, yet fearsome all the same.
Aside from having a pretty great title, “Sharks Are Fucked Up” is a rip-roarin’ guitar rock colossus, where the Doobie Brothers meet Fugazi, melodic riffs boogie around one another only to soar into jagged punk rock warfare. The Princess Bride referencing “Rodents of Unusual Size” is more melodic, better fit for radio, sort of, and pretty pleasant overall, whereas “The Lunch Helicopter” even finds the band going acoustic in a sort of surprising diversion. Nothing quite comes near the transvestite Tourette’s explosion of “Trans Dyn-o-Myte,” which caps its insane verse with a fiery shout of “I AM A MAN!”
Bald Eagle aren’t so much an American institution as they deserve to be, but their balls out rock barrage on Hot Shoulders proves just how valuable they are to American punk rock. I’ve got a great pitch for Successories once the band is finally given their due. All four members stand solemnly, each one clutching a mangled and broken instrument, against an American Flag background, their namesake peering proudly beyond the horizon. The caption below reads: FUCK YEAH!
The Party of Helicopters – Please Believe It
Drive Like Jehu – Yank Crime
The Nation of Ulysses – The 13-Point Plan to Destroy America
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.