- Released: 2019
- Origin: New York City, USA
- Label: Loma Vista
- Best Track: Drought
Punk rock is, and always will be, the most important kind of music for me. At the same time, Jello Biafra had a point when he sang ‘Punk’s not dead, it just deserves to die’ on ‘Chickenshit Conformist‘. I love basic punk, but it’s true that if the genre wants to be taken seriously, it has to stay fresh and keep saying and doing new things.
A notable example of a band trying to do this was Refused with the 1998 album The Shape of Punk to Come, including the song ‘New Noise‘, which effectively acted as a summary of the wider idea of the album. With their second album Dog Whistle, New Yorkers Show Me the Body come about as close as I’ve heard to achieving anything similar with the genre.
I’ve seen the band’s name crop up a few times on forums and social media groups I follow, so I thought it was time I gave them a go. They’re a hardcore punk band primarily, but there are other other influences in their sound. That’s evident straight away, with what sounds like a Spanish guitar (or possibly a banjo, which they are known to make use of) in effect at the start of ‘Camp Orchestra’. Tracks like ‘Not For Love’ and ‘Die for the Earth to Live’ include poetic, spoken word elements reminiscent of those of Refused’s Dennis Lyxzén, while ‘Badge Grabber’ is a gritty tirade with an industrial, krautrock edge, littered with electronic pulses and shredding drums.
‘Drought’ is an absolute banger. Take the words literally or metaphorically – the band give you a choice with lyrics like “New York’s the same/There’s no water in LA/Desert to desert/It’s dry below the bay”, followed by “In the city there’s a plot/People out, it’s a drought”. Is this a song about climate change fear and American cities’ reliance on water from elsewhere, or is about the “people drought” caused by mass emigration from these cities? Or is it a bit of both?
That’s what this album does so well. It keeps you guessing, with songs open to interpretation. Arguably the closest thing to a single is ‘Madonna Rocket’, where singer Julian Cashwan Pratt both seems to embrace and lament death at the same time. His vocals are throaty and wild, not unlike Henry Rollins, with occasional growls suited more to sludge metal than punk.
It’s a seriously interesting, accomplished second album that shows what can be done with punk without it losing that dirty, unrefined sound that fits it best. By all accounts, their 2016 debut Body War is a bleaker and angrier record than this, which sounds right up my street, so I’ve got a bit of catching up to look forward to with this band!