Review Summary: Boxcutter in both socks
SMTB are a violent band. Noisy, aggressive, and hard, the trio's new release Trouble the Water packs a sonal fist aimed at the ever-changing New York landscape as gentrification and all its byproducts seep into its lifeblood. Through their unique influences (yes that is a banjo you hear), the band is able to create a sound that can be difficult to describe: somewhere in between the proto-punk that was coming out of LA in the late 60s, matched with the energy of a modern hardcore band.
Singer Julian Cashwan Pratt's distinct vocal style ranges from an almost stereotypical NY slurring, to a pitbull of its chain; amplifying Pratt's vocals is Harlan Steed's blown-out bass lines and abrasive synthesizer, all coupled with drummer Jackie Jackieboy's simple but effective delivery. Trouble the Water's opener "Loose Talk" perfectly sets the stage and forecasts for the listener what to expect and how to feel listening to the rest of the album. Rhythmically building between banjo and acoustic guitar as Pratt grimaces over the state of his hometown, eventually imploding into a chunky breakdown:
"They say they're raising the numbers
More killed over the weekend
Humidity makes the police stupid and they'll kill some if they can.
I don't regret violence
But I try to remember the plan.
Build some, fight for none
Love and respect
Come and *** with the set."
Luckily, while this formula of build-breakdown is no doubt enjoyable throughout, though admittedly sometimes banal, SMTB mixes up their sound without detracting from the album as a whole. For instance, songs like "Radiator" and "Boils Up," whose static-y synth and d-beat drum pattern, callback to synth punk pioneers the Screamers; "Out of Place," personally my favorite track, which at first seems like it would offer respite halfway through the album, is one of the most unsettling songs here as the synth would fit just as well in a thriller movie; "WW4," another track that leans heavy on acoustic guitar and banjo, also showcases Pratt's rapping ability.
Overall, SMTB's Trouble the Water offers something enjoyable for any and all -core fans, demonstrating the scenes' ever-evolving sound yet proves that there still exist bands who utilize unconventional gear and style to push the boundaries further.