At first glance the meteoric rise of Sacramento hardcore mob, Trash Talk over the last year or so appears unprecedented. A band with such unrelenting rage, absence of traditional structure and downright diabolical lyrics should be found nowhere near mainstream festivals and journalistic outlets. But lo and behold, there they were at Reading Festival last year, throwing bins at their audience; there they were at Soundwave Festival kicking up a dust storm; and there they are
in various magazines worldwide. On the other hand they have always had a curious infectiousness which has allowed them to offer more than just simple shock value. Last year’s ‘Eyes & Nines’ saw the near-paradoxical balance between furious brevity and memorable hooks shift dramatically in favour of the latter. The quartet’s latest effort, ‘Awake’ attempts to further this shift.
This makes sense. It means ‘Awake’ sounds like a natural progression from ‘Eyes & Nines’ as old-school hardcore and punk influences are more prominent. In short, it sounds like Ceremony’s ‘Rohnert Park’ only with a more playful sense of aggression. The opening title track, for instance, brims with vitriolic energy; whereas ’Burn Alive’
spits nihilistic lyrics such as “only the good die young, so burn alive”, over unrelenting power chords. All of this is nothing new for Trash Talk, but on ‘Awake’ it feels more upbeat – fun, even. The influence of producer Joby J. Ford from The Bronx is also evident, especially in the rollicking bluesy riffs and rhythmic stomp of ‘Blind Evolution’
. All this considered, one could accuse Trash Talk of diluting their identity, their inexplicably pissed-off take on modern hardcore, of favouring a more approachable sound wherein specific influences are more readily identifiable.
In a way, ‘Awake’ also sounds like Trash Talk inadvertently confronting critics who accuse them of putting more into their live show than their records. To be honest, this is still a fair critique to make, though for how much longer remains to be seen. This is not because ‘Awake’ is far more accomplished or fleshed out than the rest of their discography, but because it is difficult to imagine it sparking the same levels of pit carnage which ‘Plagues’ or ‘Walking Disease’ did. Furthermore, the more obvious array of influences on display here give the impression that ‘Awake’ is more considered than their previous work. However, this does reduces the band’s impulsive sense of misanthropy, and so is not a positive aspect. It is unfortunate, but on ‘Awake’ Trash Talk’s sense of omnidirectional anger seems somewhat muted.
Cynics might argue that it was inevitable that ‘fame’ would cause Trash Talk’s fury to begin to subside and might cause them to craft a more accessible sound – to “sell out”, no matter how arbitrary that insult is. But to be honest, although ‘Awake’ isn’t
as furious as fans have come to expect, and though it does
have a more approachable aesthetic, it is not a million miles away from what they have released before. Specifically, ‘Awake’ has much in common with 2010’s ‘Eyes & Nines’, while moments such as the slowed, closing refrain of “I don’t care where you’re going, I just care that you’re gone” in ‘Blind Evolution’ recalls ‘Plague’s melodrama . ‘Awake’ is pretty much the same Trash Talk we’ve come to expect, only this time they’re having more fun being angry than ever before.