Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs have released their new power-pop-punk album Real One through Dine Alone Records. It has been over three years since their last release, and Real One’s sound has changed from their previous self-titled album. Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs have switched out most of their signature, Toronto-punk dirty distortion for cleaner yet still crunchy vintage 80’s rock riffs, a la KISS, The Replacements and Queen. Real One also incorporates a subtle honky-tonk piano, a swaying organ, and a lamenting Billy Joel-esque harmonica.
The album maintains the quintessential angst of punk while steering it into a slightly more catchy and easily digestible space. The band has graduated their ambitions from dive bars to concert arenas. Real One is also more thematically emotional than their previous work. While their last albums centred around adolescent frustration and masculinity, Real One unguardedly expresses the butterflies of new-found love and the fear of it slipping through your fingers.
Some other highlights in the album include the twangy and contemplative tracks ‘Gates of Heaven‘ and ‘RUN Angel.’ They contrast with the high energy, bearing a resemblance to the country-calm aesthetic of The Lumineers. ‘Gates of Heaven’ is a 7-minute piece, which opens as a brooding ballad centred around swelling strings and a swirling saxophone performed. The song then transitions back into the more strident and energetic territory of the album. The album’s title song is perhaps the strongest of all – embodying the invigorating arena-rock spirit that surges through the 11 tracks.
Unfortunately, a couple of songs get lost in the mix, falling into the trap of sonic redundancy, like ‘Sounds Alright‘ and ‘Spirit of the Radio‘. The exploration of the dreamy sounds in ‘Gates of Heaven’ and ‘RUN Angel’ is so soothing and refreshing that the album’s tendency to quickly revert back to the traditional garage punk sound is at times jarring, and overall a little disappointing.
However, the hills and valleys that are present in the album are lovely and dynamic and create a victorious indie power-punk album that reminds us of the world that awaits us after lockdown. A world of rowdy live concerts, exhilarating moshing, friends, love, and community awaits. In the meantime, Real One effectively transports us to that world so we can rock out in our bedrooms in preparation.