Songs From Under The Sink (2006) holds a special place in many of our hearts with the untimely passing of Erik Petersen, the anarchist poet of Philadelphia, in 2016. The album itself was Mischief Brew’s sophomore release, recorded and released on Fistolo Records just under a year after their debut album, “Smash the Windows” was released in 2005. All the songs were written by Erik between the years 1997 and 2002.
Looking back on this record in 2022, over 20 years after these songs were written, is an interesting experience, and I think the context of where the genre itself was at time is very important. Acoustic punk in general was given very little attention at the time, as more commercial melodic punk in the forms of Green Day, NOFX and Pennywise took center stage of the punk arena, and NWAHM dominated the greater rock and roll scene. Underneath all that distortion, however, this collection of songs would come out from under the sink to contribute to what could be considered a high- water mark for our genre, as Defiance Ohio and Johnny Hobo released The Great Depression and Love Songs for the Apocalypse respectively in the same year. This was an incredibly pivotal year for the genre as these three records each quickly became what we now consider quintessential folk punk.
Further still, many of the tracks on Songs From Under The Sink would go on to significantly influence the shape and style of the genre over the next two decades. Here was something that was not explicitly acoustic punk, and not quite near the realms of Gypsy Punk or Celtic Punk either. This was something new. This was something articulate and powerful, with righteous indignation burning like a coal beneath the surface. Certainly, the best thing about this album is the influence that it’s had on the plethora of singer/songwriters and folk punk bands throughout the late 00s, 10s, and even early 20s.
Many of the songs found on this album would go down as being among the best that Mischief Brew had to offer. The album itself offers the listener a glimpse into the anarchist perspective of the world, beginning with the bombastic Thanks, Bastards! that makes it explicitly clear who is responsible for the politics we collectively hold. Tell Me A Story, the fast-paced oft overlooked 2nd track of the record, continues the anarchist’s paradigm as well as the sarcastic themes and articulate lyrics present on almost every track that contributes so heavily to the Mischief Brew sound. Gimme Coffee, or Death, the acoustic ballad of dystopic drug raids and broken protests seems to dichotomize the content of the lyrics with the upbeat pace of the song itself and continues to be ever relevant, as well as one of my personal favorites. The taunting Children Play With Matches, a song in which Erik entices children to break all the rules, 20 years later continues to be one of the most listened to tracks off the record with millions of YouTube views and Spotify listens.
Despite listening to Mischief Brew for over a decade now, before writing this review I had not given this album a full cover to cover listen and having done so several times now I’m very grateful that I have. Save A City, track number five, is an incredible ballad that I think is highly underrated. I was also brought back to some of my old favorites like Gratitude and Thanks, and Love and Rage, anthems that I personally hold very dear to my heart. I had never heard All Our Comrades before, and while I love the message behind the song it is admittedly not my favorite. Coffee, God, and Cigarettes, the sardonic classic, is probably the most famous track off the record and still slaps as hard as it did when we used to scream this back in the day.
I had somehow not heard the last four tracks off this album previously, and while they’re not fan favorites, I still really appreciated different aspects they had to offer. For instance, the full Mischief Brew band on A Rebel’s Romance, and the fast-paced mandolin on The Dreams of the Morning. How Did I get Out Alive? is a slow-paced ballad that rounds out the anarchist themes throughout the record in a question to the listener of how we are collectively going to get out of this situation. Lastly, The Midnight Special 2002 contains some fun vocal melodies that I’m certain to include in my playlists going forward.
As a whole this album helped introduce important themes of a burgeoning genre. Elements such as anarchist anthems, sardonic criticisms of the status quo, fast paced rhythms and heartfelt ballads, continue to find a home in folk punk scene. Combined with other contemporary acts, Mischief Brew would help usher in somewhat of a heyday for the genre, and the fact that this record is still played so heavily today certainly indicates the influence it’s had over the past two decades.