One of my absolute favorite albums of a few years ago is the incredible Sunshine In A Shot Glass from Cincinnati’s 500 Miles To Memphis. That album is overflowing with (quite possibly) the best and most energetic merging of country and punk rock I’ve ever heard. Even 500MTM singer Ryan Mallot’s EP with Kelly Thomas from last year is amazing. It all leads me to the question I’ve been asking and reconsidering ever since first hearing the new 500MTM album We’ve Built Up To Nothing a few weeks ago, “Why was I initially so underwhelmed?”
Where Sunshine In A Shot Glass is instantly infectious and remains so throughout, We’ve Built Up To Nothing is quite as easy or obvious. It’s a bit more of a grower; it’s a bit less pop punk and bit more barroom country rock. My initial reaction is probably due more to my expectations rather than the quality of the record. I’ve listened to the album at least a dozen times since I got it and while there isn’t anything as catchy as “All My Friends Are Crazy” to be found here, there are plenty of hooks and the album is more than solid from front to back. Really, I think this is a really good album.
Frontman Ryan Mallot’s vocals are (again) front and center and rightfully so. I just love this guy’s voice and the slight whine and twang it has. If he was a girl, well, you know… Overall, there’s a slower and more somber tonality to this album than their last one. There’s less urgency but no less passion, perhaps you might call that maturity.
One of the reasons I love 500MTM is that it still gets me when I hear a hardcore-style half-time breakdown in what is essentially a country song. There’s even a riff in the middle of “It’s Alright” that could pass as something from The Shape Of Punk To Come. It all just makes me smile. Another new element that the band employs more of on We’ve Built Up To Nothing is the ample use of a brass section on tracks like “Dejas” and the title track giving them an almost Southwestern flavor.
500 Miles To Memphis might not be the band they once were, but if they keep making records like this one I’ve got no problems with that. We’ve Built Up To Nothing was self-released by the band and is available now.