Beowulf have, believe it or not, been around since the early 80’s. They were one of the original Venice Beach, California punk/hardcore bands who, according to some, helped define the scene. Truth be told, though, no one really remembers any of the Venice Beach bands from the 80’s outside of Suicidal Tendencies. More than two decades after the release of their first album, and more than a decade since their last studio album, Beowulf have put together Westminster & 5th, a throwback to the Venice scene of ages past.
Throwback is the definitely the most obvious and appropriate way to classify this album. It feels like it was actually released 20 years ago. The album cover is probably the most basic cover to grace a CD’s front in years. The recording quality is relatively murky, with everything feeling like it was recorded directly onto a four-track in someone’s garage and then burned to a CD. Almost all of the songs are in the 2-3 minute length range and tend to re-use the same hardcore punk riffs over and over. Heck, even the font used throughout the liner notes is a script that I haven’t seen actively used since 1996. This album simply feels old.
Don't get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with a release hearkening back to genres past. Lord knows we need another metalcore band about as much as Rosie O’Donnell needs another cheeseburger, but there isn’t anything on Westminster & 5th that will keep your interest longer than a minute or two. 16 tracks of repetitive skate punk is hard to stomach, especially when the songs are as boring as these.
Usually skate punks bands would at least have interesting, spirited, or funny lyrics to make up for the lack of variation in the musical structures of their genre, but in Beowulf’s case you get songs about NASCAR, beer, hillbillies, hick love songs, loving God, driving cars, getting drunk, and auctions. It’s amazing, really, that they could cover so much backwater hick territory on only one album.
Some credit should be given to the members of Beowulf for giving it a shot more than a decade after their last proper release, especially considering the amount of trauma that the death of their bassist had previously caused the band. Still, this album is far from memorable and will only have the tiniest amount of interest from anyone outside of skate punk diehards and Beowulf’s few remaining fans.