The Ducky Boys are back, broken-hearted but hardly broken. "Dead End Streets," out June 4, opens with three straight shots of bitterness best captured in the line "There's nothing about you I like," all seemingly spurred by love gone horribly wrong.
Of the great street-punk bands that blossomed in Boston in the mid '90s, the Ducky Boys always seemed the ones most willing to make it personal, and that trend carries into its sixth full-length album, and third overall release since regrouping in 2011 after a second hiatus. And like its predecessors, "Dead End Streets" has plenty of fight (and humor) in the mix as well.
The band still embraces punk brevity, knocking out 15 songs in 34 minutes, but the Ducky Boys don't limit their sonic palette. The band is as apt to strum a song on acoustic guitar as it is ready to bash one out fully amped. A slinky organ underscores the blues tone of "The Time We're Given," and that pleasant reggae lilt in "The Advantage" adds an ironic twist to singer/songwriter/bassist Mark Lind's declaration that we're all dancing to that same old boring song.
Lind's confessional-pop leanings shape much of the sound on "Dead End Streets," though guitarist Doug Sullivan offers a fair amount of brash contrast with the tightly coiled and aggressive "Kick" and "The Gravest Generation" (even Sullivan's more contemplative offerings "Disappear" and "The Time We're Given" have a combative edge). Drummer Jason Messina and guitarist Rich Crimlisk complete the lineup.
The title track treads carefully, as in the Ducky universe, music is usually a cure-all, but here Lind opens up about the feelings of futility that a musician_ or any artists, really_ can feel when wondering who really cares. But you have to think the funk doesn't linger, as "Live Forever" and the album closer "'Til the Wheels Fall Off" are wholehearted celebrations of punk and DIY art.
Lind does such a good job capturing a moment in song you wonder how he gets tempted by the easy line on a couple of occasions: the ol' "But for the grace of God" bit in "Up Down and Wrong" and "We're all just human beings" from " 'Til the Wheels Fall Off" are uncharacteristically heavy-handed moments. But consider those minor blemishes in an otherwise sharply crafted package of songs that captures a spirit responsible for first sweeping these guys into music when they were teenagers without forcing them to sound like a bunch of 17-year-olds as they keep making music.
The Ducky Boys are playing Sunday, June 9, at the Middle East downstairs, 472 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge. Swingin' Utters, Goddamn Gallows, and the Welch Boys are also on the bill. Doors for this 18+ show open at 7:30 p.m.
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