Nineteen years is a long time to be away, especially in the music industry. Yet nearly two decades after calling it quits, shortly after the release of their split EP with Kid Dynamite, Chicago icons 88 Fingers Louie are back with new album ‘Thank You For Being A Friend’.
Since then, a lot has changed. Founding members Joe Principe and Dan Wleklinski formed Rise Against, while Hopeless Records – home to the group’s outstanding 1998 album ‘Back on the Streets’ – has focused more on the pop-punk end of the market, eschewing bands with the bluster and character of 88 Fingers Louie in favour of radio-friendly earworms.
Yet, as much as things change, they stay the same. ’Thank You For Being A Friend’ is the sound of a band picking up right where they left off, blurring the lines between punk rock and melodic hardcore to make a crowd-pleasing and energetic album packed with positivity and some killer hooks.
And it’s resolutely forward thinking too. “What’s the point of living in the past?” considers vocalist Denis Buckley on ‘Advice Column’, and it’s a nice bit of introspection from a band that ripped itself apart due to internal tension. Even the album title reflects this personal mellowing – even if the music still rages with 88 Fingers Louie’s trademark hard-edged punk sound.
“Find a better man inside” is the message from ‘All The Right Words’, one of the strongest cuts from ’Thank You For Being A Friend’, and while there’s plenty of self-reflection throughout the album, other tracks, such as ‘Our Tired Vices’ and ‘2810’, focus on external relationships. While they’re hardly ground-breaking topics – at least for punk/hardcore bands – there’s no doubting the integrity in which 88 Fingers Louie attack the subject matter.
At 12 songs long, ‘Thank You For Being A Friend’ pushes its limit, but after 19 years away, it’s an unexpectedly punchy return, filled with fire, passion and a dozen pit-friendly jams. Welcome back guys…
’Thank You For Being A Friend’ by 88 Fingers Louie is out now on Bird Attack Records.
Words by Rob Mair (@BobNightMair)