The Drive-By Truckers are at a place in their career where they have built such a solid fan base that they can take some chances. On their 11th proper studio album they do take some chances, maybe not a ton musically but more topically.
It is a modern protest record through and through. The Truckers have always thrived on pulling from history books for their subject matter, now they are pulling from the news of the day. “Surrender Under Protest” is a Rolling Stones romp unlike anything the Truckers have tried. The soaring chorus and angsty lyrics are sure to make it a fan favorite for years. The snarling guitars on “Darkened Flags on the Cusp of Dawn” are sharply unique and when paired with the spitfire lyrics by Patterson Hood it makes for an album highlight. Hood, for the first time since the Jason Isbell era may have outdone writing partner Mike Cooley on this record. Hood’s “Sun Don’t Shine” is depressingly sweet and “Baggage” is a wonderful, wandering tune in all the right ways. Hood also pens “What It Means” which is a clear low point though. The lyrics are brutally straight-forward and lyrics like “There’s no sunlight in our ass’, and our heads are stuck up in it” are far below Hood’s regular musings. Not to say Cooley phones it in, “Protest” is his and so is the vicious send-up “Kinky Hypocrite” and the reflective “Once They Banned Imagine” is pretty strong too.
The record is actually very cohesive considering the subject matter and doesn’t get boring. It is clearly their best album since 2008s “Brighter Than Creation’s Dark.”
Key tracks: “Darkened Flags on the Cusp of Dawn” “Surrender Under Protest” “Sun Don’t Shine”