Sound: Great Leaps Forward, the full length follow up to Michigan's We Are The Union much lauded debut, Who We Are, proves not only to be a well-written and sufficient sequel to one of the best ska-punk albums of the last decade, but it also shows a maturity and growth from the last record without losing their identity as one of the leaders in the scene.
The album, like its predecessor, is laced with crunchy guitars, catchy horn lines, sing along vocals and excellent drum work. However, its obvious that on this release, WATU seemed to be aiming for a grittier release in comparison to Who We Are's pop-punk feel. To me, this is a welcome, as the standouts on Who We Are were generally songs were the band let loose.
The final product is an excellent follow-up effort, that although is not necessarily a "great leap forward" as the title suggest, does provide enough tweaks to give a breath of fresh air into an already great sound. // 9
Lyrics: One of the most recognizable aspects of We Are The Union are their ability to connect with their listeners on a personal level. Previous efforts (including The Gunshow Must Go On EP, whose 3 tracks show up re-recorded here) often touched upon subjects frowned upon in ska and punk circles, and that attribute is not lost here on this release.
The singing on this album, like previous albums flows well with the music, as the group singing mentality, although down-played a little on this album in comparison, is still present, and the lead vocals sound great with the music. The improved vocal quality over Who We Are is definitely the largest beneficiary of a slightly increased recording budget. // 9
Overall Impression: Great Leaps Forward gives the listener exactly what they would expect out of a We Are The Union album; a catchy ska-punk sound with sing-along choruses and shout-along verses. Although not the radical change one would expect with such a title as "Great Leaps Forward", it is still an excellent effort in a musical world saturated by an ever decreasing amount of actual talent.
Although this album as a whole is amazing, standouts include "Rearranging Deck Chairs On the Titanic" and "Five Out Of Five Kids Who Kill Love Slayer", the latter of which would definitely get my vote for favorite song of 2010 in any genre.
We Are The Union are the kind of band that deserves infinitely more than they get. They have no qualms about jumping in a van and driving across the country, playing shows for next to no money for people like themselves, who simply have a love for music and spreading a message through their songs. There is not a group of harder working musicians in the ska-punk scene.
If this album were lost or stolen I would replace it in a heartbeat. These guys deserve every cent they make, and I would gladly purchase it again if I were to ever lose this. // 10