Review Summary: When I get to heaven I'm going to ask to see the upstairs
The second LP from San Diego hardcore punk band, Retox, does not let up on the fury from past releases.
Storming out of the door with “Modern Balls,” these guys are going to give you a good idea what you are in for within the first twenty seconds. The guitar schism that opens the record has some weird sort of math-y robot snarling through your unsuspecting ears. It's a strange tone. Aggressive but tinged on surf and space. You hear thudding of the bass drum and that indistinguishable crack of a hardcore mother***ing snare hit, and the record begins. “Quit reaching for stars because you'll never be one,” screams the vocalist, Justin Pearson. The vocals attack you like a violently percussive car wreck.
The songs are dark, heavy, fast, as most hardcore songs are. However, they hint at experimental sound throughout. Michael Crain has a guitar style that is all his own. The only way I can think of how to describe it is a sort of druggy surf hardcore. It sounds borderline psychedelic at times. His playing is all over the fretboard. Very calculated and tight but also seeming to burst through the seams at any given time. The guitar playing alone is worth purchasing this record, both for it's technical proficiency and it's new stylish take on the instrument.
The rhythm section is ***ing tight man. Bassist Thor Dickey (who is sadly not in the band anymore) and drummer Brian Evans bludgeon your body and brain with heavy and rhythmic freakouts. The bass doesn't stick out too particularly strong but it's presence is felt and very meaningful in the overall sound. The drums are a very modern take on the D-Beat, but with it's very own personality and purpose. The tom-based verse on “The Biological Process of Politics” is both dance-y and fresh. The stomping detonations at the end of “Consider The Scab Already Picked” are about as head-banging worthy as anything. Evans really plays his heart out on this. Putting a back-to-basics approach but also tweaking the style to accommodate the spazz guitar.
Most of the songs are under two minutes. They get in, blow your head off, and leave. No last song epic ballads or anything like that. These are all hardcore freakouts for all the wrong in the world.
Don't write them off too early though because these guys are no one-trick pony. The music is far from one-dimensional. Some of the songs even have choruses with catchy vocal lines and more drugged-out passages. The songwriting is very important. While the first couple releases were more blasts of noise, this record is more thought out and well-written.
The lyrics are full of funny and cynical lines as per usual with Pearson. Some touch on politics or society and the future of society. Not necessarily delving deep into nihilism but sharing some of its ideas. Pearson's vocals are very pissed off. Always running at you with a knife. Pearson isn't the most inventive vocalist ever but I love his delivery and non-traditional machine-gun screams.
Overall a very fine record with it's feett in both hardcore punk sounds and an experimental, surf-y twist. One of my favorites of 2013 and played more on my record player than most. At 22 minutes it isn't a chore to get through and really gets our senses moving. With an aggressive style and a original sound, who knows how far this band will go?