Gimpleg’s Top 25 Albums Albums of 2023: Part 6 of 7

In the sixth installment of my top 25 albums of the year, we are looking at my #2 album of 2023. To see what albums came in between #25- #3, they are available in the archives. Come back tomorrow to find my top album of 2023.

This was a really tough choice. This album was my favorite album for most of the year, and even as I started writing this article I almost decided to move it back up to number 1. This album probably impacted me the most of any album all year, but ultimately, I decided there was one album I enjoyed a little more.

2. Faintest Idea: Road to Sedition

I don’t know where to begin. This album amps me up to epic levels every single time I hear it. I definitely have a bias towards political music, and in that regard, this album is a dissertation. Lyrics alone, and this album is likely to rank well top 10, however, this album is so much more than just amazing lyrical messaging. Sonically this might be my favorite pure  ska-punk/ ska-core album of all time. This replaces Suicide Machines Destruction by Definition or Battle Hymns when it comes to that punk ska-core sound. When it comes to this genre of music, this is the new pinnacle. While many of the albums in my top 10 are based on the way they expand their genre in new directions and tie different influences together, this album has earned its spot for perfecting chosen medium. 

The album begins with a short track that is mostly instrumental to introduce us to the sound of the band, but the track ends with a short story  from the International Worker’s of the World Union that is often recounted by Utah Phillips involving a hired shill whose job was to attract a crowd to rally workers in company towns- where all of the businesses and houses in a city were owned by one company, and the police worked for the company. The shill would wait until shift change, when the workers were on their way home and act like he had just been robbed, as a crowd of people would come to check on him, he would yell “I’ve been robbed by the capitalist system” and paid musicians would hop out and sing pro-labor and union songs. The track ends with “and this is what they sang…”

Thus begins the album, a song, but also a history lesson, and a warning of what lies ahead. The second track doubles down. While this song sounds incredible, it’s literally the first single for the album and is the song that first exposed me to Faintest Idea and made me immediately pre-order the album, it’s also just a literal bibliography of leftist books and albums that influenced the creation of this album, made into a cohesive song that blasts an incredible punk/ ska rhythm. If you buy the vinyl, the liner notes don’t just include the lyrics, they also give you recommended reading to match the concepts in the song and short stories discussing the origins of the song.

Since I love every song on this album, and I have a deep burning desire to go into every single song, I’m going to try to restrain myself and only go into a few tracks, but the first one is going to be “Nose Dive”- one of several that could qualify as my favorite. The song is about balancing radical politics with the need to have a job and be a participant in a capitalist system that you hope to dismantle. The line “the only thing worse than being exploited is not being exploited at all” is a quote from economist Joan Robinson that inspired the song and is the line from the song my mind often dwells on, but the most impactful part of this song is the guest appearance from Riskee of Riskee and the Ridicule whose album appears earlier on this list. The rapped verse fits in with the song perfectly but the mix in styling adds even more energy and texture to the song with a violent aggression that is fitting for the subject matter. What makes this song stand out to me is the self doubt inherent in the premise. I think imposter syndrome is common for a lot of us and when it comes to being anti-capitalist and wanting to fix the problems caused by capitalist, that sense of being a fraud while working 40 hours a week and renting a house and living in a capitalist system eats at all of us, but we don’t realize that everyone else is feeling it as well. Hearing someone who has been active in community building and raising awareness and on the front lines for so long singing about the subject gives me strength and hope and confidence.

Another contender for my favorite song is “Not Coming Back”. According to the liner notes, this song is the most “poppy” song, because they liked the juxtaposition of upbeat lyrics with dark images of death in the lyrics, but I don’t hear a pop song. The hip-hop influences rhythm of the vocals, the harmonized backing vocals, with metal and hardcore paced rhythms and ska upstrokes and horns that run through the album are extremely prominent here, especially in the chorus. The song itself is a brutally real take on climate change. To quote the chorus, “we ain’t coming back this time”. Sure, the effects are only just now becoming visual, but the problem isn’t right now, it’s that the chain reaction has been started and our behavior hasn’t changed, and it’s not likely to change. It’s too late. To quote a full verse of lyrics as metaphors for how dire the situation is

We’ll never learn the limits if we never get tested

Sign a suicide pact with a man on his death bed

Lungs full of dust choking and breathless

Dance on the gallows wear the noose as a necklace

Playing russian roulette with 6 full chambers

So close to Death we’re on a first name basis

Flood out the airwaves to drown out the thinking

Start a mutiny on a ship that is sinking

The dark nature of the lyrics in a song with a message of defeat sounds more like a rallying cry and a call to action with the aggressive tone. 

While every song on the album hypes me up and inspires me, the last one I feel I can’t ignore is “War to the Palaces”. This song is a critique of luxury apartments and skyscrapers that sit empty, especially in the wake of COVID where property sits intentionally empty, massive skyscrapers, buildings that can house thousands, while homeless people sleep on the streets in their shadows. This song features both the longest guitar solo on the album and the best bass solo, gang vocal chants of “War” during the chorus whenever the line “War to the Palaces” comes up but the call of “For every window there’s a brick” is the one that sticks out, and demanding that- especially following the second verse

And while the land stays under Lords control

You know this problem won’t be getting solved

So we’ve come to take back what was ours

With bolt cutters and crowbars

Every song is a call to action, a lesson to learn, a message to spread. Every song has the energy to motivate. The blend of styles and production and execution to make you listen, to commit the words to memory. 

Favorite song: Nose Dive

Written by Gimpleg