Militarie Gun's Aim Is True on 'Life Under the Gun'

BY Paul DikaPublished Jun 27, 2023

Militarie Gun has become one of the more intriguing punk bands in the last couple years, and it shouldn't come as a surprise. Frontperson and lead songwriter Ian Shelton has found success in a variety of different projects over the years, whether drumming and singing for his powerviolence band Regional Justice Center or directing music videos for the likes of Drug Church, Angel Du$t and Knuckle Puck. 

Shelton's endeavours have shown his ability to excel in several spaces, and Militarie Gun is his most recent project, having already caught the attention of many off the strength of 2021's dual EPs All Roads Lead to the Gun and All Roads Lead to the Gun II. After releasing a number of singles in 2022, Militarie Gun have fully arrived with their debut LP Life Under the Gun, an album that boasts catchy hooks delivered with an aggression akin to the most energetic hardcore bands.

Shelton and co. do the seemingly impossible, and deliver a collection of earworms that are incredibly poppy, filled with crisp guitars and bouncy beats, paired with a ranging vocal performance that gives moments an additional edge and texture. The punctuated oohs that bridge the sections of lead singles "Do It Faster" and "Very High" add a punch that helps accentuate the songs' pulse and give them a more unique feel. Shelton will bark lyrics in aggressive verses, before hitting an unforgettable sing-along melodic chorus to create a compelling juxtaposition. 

Songs like "Think Less" and "Return Policy" follow that formula incredibly well, but slotted right beside them are straight up bops, like "Seizure of Assets" and "Never Fucked Up Once" that are, simply put, incredibly catchy pop-punk songs. Drummer Vince Nguyen's buoyant work on the kit and Max Epstein's punchy bass leads give the poppier songs an airiness that helps William Acuña and Nick Cogan's guitars shine while Shelton's vocals soar. Shelton's performance is especially noteworthy on penultimate track "See You Around," where outside of some keys and a lead guitar, his measured and soft vocal performance leads to one of the album's most vulnerable moments. A highlight to be sure, as the song showcases his songwriting instincts and fearlessness to take risks, which tend to pay off more times than not. 

Tying together the album's riffs and hooks are Shelton's lyrics that paint a picture of anxiety, regret and self doubt. For all the infectious melodies that suggest a feel-good attitude, Life Under the Gun sees Shelton struggling to find peace as he re-explores the past, tries to process the moment, and better himself for the future. "Think Less" maps out that internal dialogue: "Can't stress on times past / I'm told I should look back and laugh / Don't see a world where you make it right / So I live, live in spit." Shelton concludes with, "List of people I've fucked over / Think less of me / And I agree," a sentiment that encompasses the remorse for past actions which in turn creates an uncertainty of self. 

"Big Disappointment," a track that appeared on the first Gun EP, was re-recorded for the album, and it's easy to see why it fits. The line "Burned beaten bludgeoned brain / That I can't save,"  almost perfectly sums up the themes of Life Under the Gun. Shelton's desire to figure out how to make the changes he so desperately wants to make are blocked by the voices that discourage and create that internal fight. However, on the title track and album closer, Shelton's arrival at "A life of pursuit ends up pursuing you" brings with it a simplified approach to grappling with the stressors and insecurities that Shelton, and many others, deal with. Ultimately, life is utterly complicated and messy, so perhaps all one can do is put their best foot forward and hope the rest falls into place. 

Life Under the Gun is everything you'd want from a band's debut LP. Militarie Gun's sound is so focused and unique, the album feels more seasoned than one would expect for a debut. New listeners will surely be inclined to throw them into their rotation with open arms, and those already in the know will be glad to hear Militarie Gun continue to exceed expectations.   
(Loma Vista)

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