Review Summary: a sermon for the vermin
When I listen to this album I picture a white-collared shirt shrivelling and charring in a backyard bonfire and I’m pretty sure that’s along the lines of what Drug Church intended. For my money, there’s little else that captures our collective disillusionment with the inexorable march of a production line than this kind of drop-tuned, four-chord punk music, but to fold CHEER
up -- to put CHEER
in this neat little box -- would be selling it short.
Normally I wouldn’t care about “…like, fuck the system maaaaann” albums, but something about this one makes it feel like Drug Church actually give a shit, and that they aren’t just conducting a public display of outrage for the sake of falling in step with what is understood of the punk genre. There's something more going on here. Ironically, it’s in how the record differs from its ilk that it makes its case for, you know, being impassioned and rousing and genuine. How many other bands like this do you know of that are willing to beg? To grovel? In Foam Pit
, the lynchpin is passed through in the form of Patrick Kindlon yelping ”Don’t pass me over please there’s rent I gotta pay, Oh Jesus”
, and something about that -- pitted against instrumentals that sound like someone punching a hole through drywall -- engenders the candour we look for in music tenfold compared to the more defensive, more antagonistic, alternative. My heart also skips for things as simple as the abrupt dropout of drums in the first verse of Weed Pin
, the sheer and utter romance/celebration of a hook like ”PAY SHIT RATES, GET SHIT LABOUR”
– striking that elusive balance between resonant simplicity and delivery we, as learned and experienced listeners(??), don’t instinctively feel like scoffing at. And I never wanted Tillary’s
outro progression to end, even though it’s longer than some punk songs and meanders on until it forgets people are still in attendance.
I’ll tell you what is punk though: doing the thing even though you’ve “never been particularly good at the thing”, as Kindlon puts it, and although I disagree that he’s not good at the drunken, siren wailing he performs both here and in Self Defense Family, that tenacity galvanizes this record and manifests in ways that continue to surprise and affect 5-10 listens in. Those tom-heavy drums pummel and the riffs stack high like so many pillars of graffiti-tagged concrete and the solution to our malaise is setting fire to everything. And maybe this album is the fire; the guitar melodies on songs like Strong References
certainly blaze a scorching trail through the middle of the rhythm section. But on a record where those blistering tones are juxtaposed against lines like ”Find an oven, stick my head in
”, I’m assuming that tenacity isn’t a by-product of optimism so much as it is a spiteful response to expectation and convention. That, my guys, is more punk than vandalizing GG Allin’s gravestone.
And the gross hipster in me, normally so loud and obnoxious, is quelled here: this is not my album, it deserves to be passed between us like a pack of cigarettes. There are different reasons for unification: a mutual love of a thing, a mutual hate of a thing, a shared responsibility. CHEER
presents another: an intrinsic link between us tied by the common realization that we aren't worth shit, but that doesn't mean we should give up on making something that is.