In the middle of the 2020 pandemic, The Walk Offs released ‘Sorry For Nothing’, a lovably ragged EP that fused a bunch of blue collar rock influences with a love of the rough and ready style of The Replacements. It never pretended to be original, but between a few good songs and a lot of DIY spirit, it more than held its own in the entertainment stakes.
Much like most of the world, post 2020, The Walk Offs trucked on nonchalantly but had bursts of creativity. Following a couple of digital singles, they eventually released ‘Audio Recordings #5’ in August 2023. The album’s songs don’t necessarily break new ground for the San Antonio rockers, but the record definitely has its moments. ‘Ship of Fools’, in particular, does a fine job in revisiting the rough blue collar rock from before. With a full compliment of loud, chunky guitar riffs, underscored by a throbbing bass, the number only takes a bar or two to find its feet, and by the time Rob Hankosky starts to sing, the track already shows off plenty of muscle. By the time it hits the mid point, its blend of blue collar rowdiness and roots rock sounds unshakeable. Despite its raw-ish qualities and a very natural vocal, there’s something very pleasing about its middle period Replacements meets noisy Rolling Stones meets early Soul Asylum approach. The same goes for ‘Guilty,’; between a riff that sounds like a hefty marriage between a Boston bar band and a noisy version of 90s bands akin to Rob Rule, it comes with a reasonable musical core. Its rootsy angle allows for a great country rock inflected guitar solo and a great twang applied to the main riff, but a switch to semi acoustic sounds for the song’s middle eight is somewhat unexpected. This proves that, despite favouring a rough and natural approach to playing and recording, The Walk Offs’ arrangements aren’t necessarily phoned in or hacked out.
Slowing down, there’s something at the heart of ‘Step By Step’ that occasionally sounds like one of Evan Dando’s more reflective efforts circa The Lemonheads’ ‘Lovey’, fused with another blue collar influence. Smoother all round, the music suits Hankosky’s quieter tones, whilst the music’s mid tempo jangling allows for a brighter guitar sound to cry above the basic rhythm. Better still, a couple of sedate and well arranged guitar solos really help to sell more of a country rock angle, showing off the band’s more mature side with a natural flair. The similarly mellow ‘Friends’ sounds even more like The Walk Offs channelling a 90s roots rock influence on a track where a chiming rhythm guitar provides a near perfect compliment to an understated vocal. Fans of The Connells and their ilk will have encountered lots of other similar material over the years, but that doesn’t mean this sounds in any way lazy. If anything, it’s one of the release’s stronger tunes with its blend of ringing guitars and steady rhythm.
Elsewhere, you’ll find ‘Looking For Love’ – a slightly punkier tune sounds like a hybrid of early Soul Asylum and New York Dolls helmed by a man with a Texan drawl – and ‘Keeping Me’, a track that really showcases some punchy bass work from Carlos Gonzalos on an arrangement that’s loaded with overdriven guitar, again, tapping into a proto-punk meets blue collar sound. It’s arguably The Walk Offs at their most trashy – especially by the time a pleasingly sloppy lead guitar solo hits its stride – but it’s great fun. Then there’s ‘Really Not Fair’, a tune that sounds like it’ll infuse the grubby rock with a glam-ish stomp at first, but quickly descends into safe territory. Safe it may be, but between a bigger chug in places and another Replacements inspired semi-sloppy lead guitar, it comes with all of the ragged greatness you’ve come to expect from a Walk Offs recording, and even chucks in a couple of rough backing vocals to boost everything. Overall, although these tracks might seem little less striking at first, there’s still plenty to love if you’re a fan of the style.
If that’s not enough to warrant the cost of a download, a rousing cover of The Replacements’ ‘IOU’ – available on the Bandcamp edition of the album – is on hand to seal the deal. Musically, it’s pretty close to the original cut. The guitars aren’t quite as punky, but they retain a grubbiness and energy that constantly pushes the music forward, and it’s interesting to hear the familiar Paul Westerberg vocal delivered with an obvious Texan accent. Best of all here, though, are the moments of lead guitar creeping through the chugging riffs. Every effort has been made to reproduce the same – or at least very similar sound – to The Replacements’ recording, and it’s a job well done. Rob Hankosky and Fred Fetchter manage to capture a pleasingly semi-sloppy approach in their playing that’s a solid tribute to Westerberg’s wilfully loose style, and backed by a more than solid rhythm section throughout, the whole track is spot on.
With a compliment of dirty riffs, loose solos, slightly slurred vocals and a bucket load of Replacements/Westerberg love, ‘Audio Recordings #5’ is fairly easy to dismiss as “Walk Offs by Numbers”, but a few plays will uncover something that’s better than that. It isn’t a sonic masterpiece, or particularly original, but that’s actually half the charm. It’s worth picking up for ‘Really Not Fair’ and ‘Step By Step’ – a pair of tracks that show off each angle of the band’s sound with relative ease – but each of the numbers have their own charm. If you love bar room and roots rock that’s played loudly and with abandon, this more than worth adding to your digital collection.