‘AWOL’ by The Friendsters dropped about 10 days ago, and I should have written about it immediately – sorry that I didn’t. The trio of Roberta Stewart, Sally Pitmann and Liam Kenny released a 7” a few months back through Eternal Soundcheck that I think have all sold out now.

This song is a huge departure from the noise on their 7” where it was all abrasive riffs and harsh tonality. It was great for what it was, but the taught, claustrophobic punk is entirely different from the dejected country balladry on ‘AWOL’. This song still carries the isolation-fuelled emotion of former work, but ‘AWOL’ inhabits a harsh, expansive wilderness rather than a heat-sink bedroom or basement.

From what I can gather, ‘AWOL’ is about loving an absent figure, whose life was cut tragically shot by a bullet to the head. The morose depression is palpable, with the flat vocal delivery (intentional, and not described thus as a slight) making it seem like The Friendsters are now just as lifeless as their lost love; they took the bullet too but the blood keeps pumping.

As far as storytelling goes, a lot goes unsaid, but it is the undefined circumstances of this imaginary relationship that make this song so poignant. Was the relationship in tatters? Was suicide the cause of death? Was the remorse so powerful that in an apparent pleading and apologetic manner the surviving member vows to keep loving the other? I could be reading too much into it all, but sometimes inference is the extra hook that snares in songs like this.

Hard or soft, punk or country, the feel is the same. The Friendsters are just as intent on toying with your emotions as before, but they are now doing it in different ways.