MBA Johnston is the new EP from Beard Springsteen.
By Dave Duval
Fredericton’s own Beard Springsteen returns, following up August’s Broken English with a brand new EP, the amazingly titled, MBA Johnston. A solo project for The Trick’s JE Sheehy, this release offers more of the same lo-fi downer punk, but this time around the fat’s been trimmed and the song writing is even stronger. A great companion piece to his earlier work, MBA Johnston is unique, engaging, and very much deserving of your attention.
The project opens with Hole in the Wall, and it’s a great encapsulation of everything that works about Beard Springsteen: hooky pop-punk that’s morose without being misanthropic, downbeat but not hopeless. Lyrically heavy but musically effervescent, it’s not only the best track on this EP, but potentially the best I’ve ever heard from this project. Saint John River Valley and Hate Inside – a personal favourite – follow suit, albeit at a more subdued pace. The latter is a marvel, and another of the absolute best songs Springsteen has ever written, an earworm that latches on and never lets go. Punk Rock 101 is low-key pop song, and a very strong closer for the EP. Sheehy’s vocal performance is notably stronger here than it was on Broken English. He’s not a great singer, but he sells these songs perfectly, and his unconventional approach comes across as charming and honest, complimenting the piece’s warts-and-all production style perfectly.
MBA Johnston suffers slightly from lack of diversity, which is purely a consequence of its short run time. On Broken English, the slower songs were offset with faster stabs of punk rock, but this time around the pacing feels, comparatively speaking, a bit sluggish. On the other hand, the slower songs here are still well worth your time, and are stronger, overall, than those on the previous EP. My only other complaint is a minor one: this EP would benefit hugely from the sound of a real drum kit. The drum tracks on display generally sound better than those on Broken English, and they’re put together well, but certainly a more natural drum sound would suit the project’s aesthetic and perhaps bring a more immediate sense of energy to the fore.
Despite these minor quibbles, MBA Johnston improves on its predecessor in most every way. The production is better, the song writing is more accomplished, and it’s a great listen on a long, cold Autumn night. Serving up short, to the point bummer punk jams that stand apart from anything else being done in this very city at this very moment, Beard Springsteen deserves your support, so head over to his Bandcamp page and check out the new EP. Highly recommended for fans of PS I Love You and drinking alone.