Can a band that rarely plays outside a 100-mile radius be deserving of a career retrospective? Given the relatively short lives of so many Midwestern punk acts, the fact that Iron Guts Kelly are not only still playing shows after a decade, but releasing music, is something of which to take note.
Bloody Kansas is the band’s fifth album under this moniker, and first on vinyl. The songs comprise a mix of new tracks, re-recordings of things going all the way back to their self-titled debut, and a cover of Fishbone’s “Sunless Saturday.” All that said, Bloody Kansas is a solid compilation that really represents the quartet’s best album yet.
Granted, “The Pig, The Lawyer, The Lie” is that “you traitor!” trope writ large, but indicting the likes of politicians and leaders for what happens to the little guy. It’s not only a scathing attack on the system, but a wall of sound that goes beyond bass, drum, guitar, and the rasping scream of Boj’s vocals, managing to work in creepy horror synths.
The new version of “Strong Will Survive,” originally from the band’s self-titled debut, manages to be faithful to the original recording, as well as a heavier, tougher version. Hearing “Strong Will Survive,” especially in the context of a new song like the hardcore boogie rock of “Death’s Road,” really demonstrates that this group has a renewed sense of purpose, and this album is the start of something new. The imagery of the phoenix rising on both the packaging and in the title track is not for nothing.
Bloody Kansas sounds really robust, but clean. The separation between the various aspects — guitar, bass, drums, vocals, samples — lets the album stack its sound higher and dig it in deeper, rather than mixing everything together into a muddy roar. Hardcore albums can sound too clean or too dirty, but Bloody Kansas splits the difference perfectly. The louder it’s played, the better it sounds.
The cover art to this album will pull you in, and really brings the album’s title into strong perspective. Be it the woodcuts of Quantrill’s raiders burning the city of Lawrence, Kansas to the ground, or the phoenix rising that adorns the reverse of the liner notes and LP’s center labels, Bloody Kansas is definitely thematically represented.
The Bloody Kansas LP comes on heavyweight black vinyl. No digital download is included.
“Bloody Kansas” is available directly from the band.