Using the issue of immigration as a background for their debut album might seem like a strange idea to some, but through the scope of indie rock/cowpunk quintet The Habit, it takes listeners on a tour of a scarred country, an America still at war with its changing self. "Lincoln Has Won" songwriters and guitarists Will Croxton and Brian Mendes patch tales of life, death, redemption and failure amidst dueling structures, ideals and returns— aided by one of the great breakthrough vocalists of 2011, Siobhan Glennon.
But history class it ain't. It rocks. The wail of opener "War is Done" echoes The Pogues finest anthems, while "Blood on the Saddle" draws from the same well as vintage Crazy Horse, but that's only part of the plan. The group, originally a side project of Croxton and Mendes, delivered The Habit EP in 2008, comprised of mainly covers, or writing songs around "found" 1800s western lyrics. "Lincoln Has Won" finds a full-time band incorporating gospel, garage, southern rock, four-part harmonies, & folk into a tight ship helmed by the crack rhythm section of drummer James Pelletier and bassist Eli Thomas. The band is noisily delivered once again by engineer and legendary guitarist Ivan Julian (Richard Hell and the Voidoids) in the Lower East Side confines normally haunted by bands like the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and Heavy Trash. It's basement gallery complete with a vast array of mid-20th century tube amps, analog soundboard and 2-inch tape that's come to define The Habit's sound as much as their lyrical output.
They're equally as comfortable with the quiet as proven by Glennon's contemplative voice/piano take on "Wild Wild West". "Pennies for Eyes" adds Croxton's street corner bard, and Mendes "Shout Together" closes the album with a crackling devolution of the dawn spiritual.
The Habit's heroes range from the Carter Family and Willie & Waylon to The Sonics and Strummer & Langford. All great storytellers. No coincidence.