Nostalgia tends to emphasize the positive, and while The Henry Clay People’s newest record readily harkens to the band’s past—the reassembled original lineup returns to punk-revival form after trying boozy roots music on 2010’s Somewhere On The Golden Coast—it does so with a heavy dose of cynicism. For a group known for its boisterous slacker anthems, Twenty-Five For The Rest Of Our Lives doesn’t celebrate the apathy of youth as much as lament the unfulfilled dreams and compromise that awaits in adulthood. Thankfully, these bleak ruminations don’t detract from the album’s high-energy, wildly brash, power-chord-pounding execution.
The Los Angeles band’s fourth studio record, Twenty-Five For The Rest Of Our Lives is also its most urgent, a surging collection of barreling guitar rock that combines the bratty arrogance of Pavement and the quirky indie flourishes of The Flaming Lips. By working in segments taken from their grandfather’s self-dictated memoirs, founding brothers Joey and Andy Siara also address their melancholy themes with arty flair. The mini-epic “Friends Are Forgiving” slowly builds into its climactic chorus, expressing resignation and a wish to reconnect with the people the band’s left behind. At the other end of the spectrum, songs about disillusionment with the scene don’t get rowdier than “EveryBandWeEverLoved,” which pummels with a jabbing riff and fist-pumping punk chant. (“Every band we ever loved / is selling out or breaking up / finding out the limits of their reach.”)
Perhaps not coincidentally, Twenty-Five For The Rest Of Our Lives is just the kind of album that could save the band from such a disappointing fate. By effortlessly pairing clamorous aggression and thoughtful introspection, the record strikes a delicate balance not easily accomplished by the average teenage garage outfit. As much as The Henry Clay People seem to wish they could be forever young, a little maturity and perspective has done them well.