No Idea Records, Amazon, iTunes)
Artist: Ship Thieves (Facebook, MySpace, BandCamp, Last.fm)
No Anchor, the third album from Chris Wollard's band Ship Thieves, is a ferocious blast of southern punk intensity. Drawing heavily from the likes of Leatherface, Ship Thieves have solidly cemented themselves into that space normally reserved for Wollard's other band Hot Water Music. Ship Thieves started as a solo project for Wollard; a place for those songs that just didn't fit into Hot Water Music. The band's 2009 self-titled debut (then as Chis Wollard & the Ship Thieves) was more folk influenced and 2012's brilliant Canyons was a perfect mix of Americana, southern rock, and punk attitude. No Anchor is full tilt, driving, classic Wollard punk. Now that's not to say that this sounds or feels like a band trying to be Hot Water Music or The Draft, because it doesn't. The current Ship Thieves lineup solidified itself in 2010 and since then the project morphed from a solo outlet for Wollard into a full-fledged band. And holy crap is this band tight. What makes this band great and this record its own thing are the nuances that they bring to the music. Obviously this sounds like a Chris Wollard written record but the feel and identity is very organic and very much a reflection of these four musicians. In other words, had these same songs been recorded by The Draft, No Anchor would have sounded completely different and that is a good thing; Ship Thieves deserve their own identity as a band. The only downside to No Anchor, and this is just a personal preference thing and not a reflection of the album itself, is the lack of the folk and Americana influence. This is a punk record, plain and simple and admittedly I miss those other sides to Wollard's writing and music. For those fans of Hot Water Music and The Draft that didn't like the less-punk direction of Ship Thieves first two records, No Anchor will feel like a return to form and should please. For those that liked the earlier direction of this band (or the old Wollard/Chuck Ragan side project Rumbleseat), No Anchor is a definite change but it is well worth the listen because whether he is writing roaring punk anthems or solemn folk tunes, Chris Wollard is an exceptional songwriter and anything he touches is just about guaranteed to be great.