Review Summary: Another anti-establishment punk album by a group of talented musicians that will only improve as time goes by
Black President is an American punk rock band. It was formed in 2005 by Circle Jerks/Bad Religion guitarist Greg Hetson and Goldfinger guitarist Charlie Paulson. The bands name itself sparked much critisism because it was thought of as a "racist" shot towards Senator Barack Obama and his attempt at running for President of the United States of America. The band combated these accusations saying: "when we came up with the name of the band senator obama had not yet announced his intention to run for office. it was just our way of saying america needed a change & we could think of nothing more indictative of change in a racist, soulless system than a BLACK PRESIDENT. the sad truth is we don’t support ANY of the candidates at this point."
I first heard of the band in an issue of Revolver and thought of them as nothing more than another anti-establishment punk rock band and in a sense, my first instinct was correct. The album is fuelled by the bands extreme discontent with the government, society and individuals all together. What's saving them from being clumped together with other political punk bands is their somewhat unique sound. It has the typical "raw" sound one would expect from a punk band but not so raw that it compromises the albums "listenability" and a vocalist that truly sounds like he believes the words he spits out of his mouth. This is definetly not an album you can expect to see stocked on Wal-Mart shelves anytime soon.
I do however feel that the album has taken away from the raw anger exhibited by Christian Martucci(Vocals) since I first heard their demo's up on Myspace. However there is still plenty of anger and passion found on this album. Now that a brief background has been given, I will begin my review of Black Presidents self titled, debut album.
The album opens with a pointless eight second long intro that seems to be becoming a trend with modern day music but after it wasted eight seconds of my life, I found myself thrown straight into "Last ***ing Hope." The song is likely to become a punk anthem at their live shows and I found myself visualizing a massive circle pit opening up. The song is fast paced but not so fast that the listener can't keep up. It takes a few lyrical risks as well as Christian Martucci speaks: "equal rights for dykes and fags" and screams "Even jesus hates you & he's sick of you dropping his name" at the songs conclusion. "So Negative" begins right after and shows no sign of the album slowing down. The song seems to be an attack on the somewhat depressive society we live in, screaming "All I wanna do is laugh so why are you so G** Damn negative." This song again fills the listener with the same raw energy and anger shown in the albums opener. Sadly the energy is quickly sucked out of the listener when "Not Enough" begins. The song starts off will a dull and boring guitar riff and takes off with more dull and boring instrumentals as well as lyrics. It almost seems like filler placed in by the band to take up space though may not seem as bad if it werent contending with the albums first two, booming anthems. The albums then takes a turn for the worst when the typical, one minute long punk song "Short List of Unspoken Suspects" begins. It has fast paced but generic instrumentals behind it and suffers from bland lyrics only to be saved by the terrific vocal style. The longest song on the album "Neon" then begins and is a slower paced song but seems to be well executed. I would compare the sound of the song to a song that may come off AFI's album "Black Sails in the Sunset." This is in no way a form of critisism but shows that the band is not afraid to show the slightest bit of emotion. I can't help but mention however that the vocals in Black Sails were less than impressive and the vocals of Black President are superb. The song is followed by "Who do you Trust"" which will also be an anthem at their live shows. Though the song is little over a minute, it inhibits great raw energy and passion towards the lyrics being sang. So far I had a good feeling about the songs I heard in the albums first half and expected only better songs to come in the albums second half. Unfortunetly I was somewhat let down by the results.
The second half of the album is opened up by "Watch you Drink", a boring and annoying three minute song that I don't think should have exceeded one minute or even been placed on the album at all. Tracks 9, 11, 12, 13 and 14 show nothing better. I find it hard to review each of these songs individually when in hindsight they all sound the same with exception to track 13 "Gaslamp James Campain Speech", another "ever so popular" spoken word intro to the next song. Saying this however, I was very impressed with track 10 "Hallelujah." It was another fun song to listen to with a catchy chorus that is yet again, sure to be a staple song at a Black President live show. Unfortunetly this song seemed to be the only light in an otherwise, dark and boring second half.
In conclusion Im not sure that anyone buying this album would need to purchase any of the songs beyond track 7 (with the exception of track 10). The album is another hard hitting, anti-establishment punk rock album, full of crunchy guitar work, decent drum work and a live sound. A major positive for the album mind you, would be the tremendous vocal work that is loud but also somewhat melodic. Black President is still one of the better punk bands out there but seem like they're being "held back" musically by their lack of chemistry with each other. This is something that is likely to be included in every leather wearing, mohawk bearing hardcore punk fan's music library but not too far beyond that. I would reccomend the album to hardcore punk fans but believe the band will get better as they gain more experience playing with each other. I would reccomend the songs:
Last ***ing Hope
Who do you Trust