WORK is a curious name for a band as loud and rowdy as the long-running trio from Milwaukee. With lyrics jam-packed with references to drinking and general revelry, along with a sound the touches the edges of punk and folk, WORK is best experienced standing near a stage at neighborhood bar, cranked up in a car, or a number of other raucous—and not at all workmanlike—settings. About two and a half years removed from the band’s enjoyable Doing The Lords, WORK is back in the driver’s seat with Strictly Cruis’n, a frenzied and genre-bending 12-song follow-up that continues the ironically-named outfit’s trend of fun-yet-focused material.
Strictly Cruis’n was recorded last September, but drummer Kavi Laud’s move to Austin, Texas has resulted in fewer shows, meaning the fast-working band had to slow its roll a bit lately. Though WORK can’t play out often anymore, singer-guitarist (and a former UW-Milwaukee and Marquette philosophy professor) Joe Cannon says the album benefited from being played frequently in a live setting before the band went into the studio and Laud moved.
“They are a bunch of songs we’d been playing live for a while before we recorded them,” Cannon says. “So they’ve got the subtleties of feel and arrangement that come from playing them together repeatedly and developing them as a live band.”
The development is apparent from the moment the record begins. Following an untitled instrumental interlude that opens the album, “As It Turns Out, He Didn’t Actually Have Tuberculosis” shifts Cruis’n into second gear with jaunty instrumentation and Cannon’s emphatic howls that both continue straight into “Get Down” and “Mr. Tall Octopus.” It’s not all fun and games, though. WORK shows a deeper side and decelerates at certain points of Strictly Cruis’n. The light percussion and soft strumming make room for Cannon’s emotional vocals to take stage. His distinct voice is also highlighted in the barren “Everybody Loves Me Like A Hole In The Head” and “Papers, Please.”
Save for those slight sonic deviations and two more instrumentals, Strictly Cruis’n finds WORK taking a different route to travel to familiar-but-enjoyable territory (best exhibited in penultimate track, “Let’s Get Gross”). Before WORK’s release show at High Dive on Friday, August 31, stream Strictly Cruis’n in its entirety now, only at Milwaukee Record.