Home Front Games of Power LP
Upon the release of their 2021 EP Think of the Lie, Edmonton, Canada’s HOME FRONT brought something new to the table in an already diverse modern punk scene: a new wave sound drenched in catchy synth and nods to some of the ’80s greatest. Masterminds Graeme Mackinnon and Clint Frazier delivered songs with hooks that could go toe-to-toe with nearly any one-hit wonder of the era. It comes as no surprise, then, that with their debut LP Games of Power, HOME FRONT has pulled out all of the stops and it pays off in spades. This is a lovingly crafted album full of wall-to-wall hits that not only continues the trajectory HOME FRONT set out on with their debut, but takes it to soaring heights, incorporating nearly every benchmark of the new wave and post-punk eras. Opener “Faded State” and second track “Real Eyes” were wisely the first two tracks available before the album dropped, and give a good idea of where things are heading, but even the perfect pop sparkle of the former and the propulsive post-punk grit of the latter cannot prepare the listener for what’s ahead. Track three (“Nation”) is an Oi!-infused family affair, featuring vocals from Cal of the CHISEL as well as members of RIXE on backing vocal duties. Typically the word “anthemic” feels overused and trite, but here it fits quite nicely. Stuffed to the brim with icy synths and righteous indignation, this one will do well with a live crowd. Highlights elsewhere include “Contact,” a euphoric ode to the end of the world that shimmers like a NEW ORDER single at the end of a John Hughes film, “Crisis,” a Krautrock-y second spin down KRAFTWERK’s Autobahn, and the album’s crown jewel, title track “Games of Power.” It’s a dazzling, beat-laden groove straight out of the Haçienda during peak Madchester. Rarely does a song get an immediate second spin from me, but this one demands it. It cannot be understated: HOME FRONT’s songwriting is superb. They have a sound that is familiar and authentic without teetering into parody, only tasteful homage. Both Ian Curtis and Alan Vega receive heartfelt love letters via “End Transmission” and “Born Killer,” respectively. Both are so deftly put together that you can easily forget it isn’t JOY DIVISION or SUICIDE playing from the speaker. Therein lies the beauty of Games of Power: it lovingly celebrates a genre while pushing it forward into a modern age. HOME FRONT is no throwback, they are the future.