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Some years ago, I was able to catch Trash Talk opening for fellow punks The Bronx here in Iowa City. During their all too-too-brief set, vocalist Lee Spielman opened up his forehead with the microphone, let the crowd know that he had the flu (“I feel like shit!”), and managed to spend most of his time in the crowd that culminated in Spielman spearing an unsuspecting concert-goer into the grimy walls of Gabe’s Oasis. Such blood-soaked mayhem occurred in less than thirty minutes, and it proves to be indicative of Trash Talk on the whole. For the past seven years, the Sacrementonians have been slashing and burning their way across the world and back with a completely uncompromising old-school brand of hardcore punk. Awake brought the band much acclaim and truckloads of new eyes and ears, but their recent signing with the perennial shit-starters of Odd Future records and 119
seems proof positive that they’re ready to burn the world down.
Much is made of what is and what isn’t punk these days. Most of the time, this conversation revolves around such trivialities as what the band looks like, who the target audience is, and sadly, how popular the band has become. Such bullshit is of no consequence on 119
. There’s no attempts to temper their sound for the ever-fickle mainstream by softening up for the uplifting choruses that break up the fury with a hook, there’s no snappy guitar lick that will be stuck in your head long after you hear the songs. No, over the course of its 14 songs, 119
treats the listener like its own personal punching bag, working the body repeatedly with the double time pounding of the bass and unforgiving pummeling of the drums, only to rattle the cranium loose with the shrieking feedback of the guitar and Spielman’s demented roar. Some may complain of every song sounding a little bit too much like the ones that surround it, (except for “Blossom & Burn”), but those folks are missing the point. Trash Talk is not meant to be a pretentious exploration of art - this music exists solely to plaster the listener upside the head with a sound that’s as uncompromising as its message.
Trash Talk fits in perfectly with the established model of hardcore punk, using the medium as a means to spread a message of furious anger towards inequality, youthful apathy, and personal demons. All of these come through in spades , and my god, some of these songs are absolute barn-burning motherfuckers. “Exile on Broadway” and its barely-over-a-minute runtime blast rant through poverty, the blistering “Eat the Cycle” and the driving single “F.E.B.N.” cements the band’s dedication to togetherness in the face of adversity and all those that would destroy, and “Bad Habits” reeks of absolute desperation in the face of addictions. Were it not for Spielman’s completely unhinged performance, these topics would come off as a load of whiny horseshit, but the intensity with which he spits his defiant offusions negates any potential dismissal of the message.
Those looking for the next instantly pogo-able band in Trash Talk are going to be sadly mistaken. 119
continues the band’s trend of making unrelenting albums that give no quarter and pull no punches. These are four men that would rather play a show in a musty basement with the fear of police breaking up the party or someone taking a header into the water heater rather than headline the Honda Civic Tour. The only real misstep in the album is “Blossom & Burn”. The band slows down the assault for the sonics of creeping dread and brings in Tyler, the Creator and Hodgy Beats for a few verses in the middle of the song. The mixture of Odd Future’s gruff vocal stylings works well with the grinding music, but the lyrics are almost at odds with the entirety of the album. It’s probably a necessary evil of the increased visibility of being on Odd Future records, but it’s a completely unnecessary song in the grand scheme of the album. Still, it’s not enough to truly bring down the album. It’s a minor issue, and the rest of 119
further drives home the fact that not only is hardcore still relevant, but that Trash Talk is at the top of the heap.
1. Eat the Cycle
2. Exile on Broadway
3. My Rules
5. Uncivil Disobedience
6. Blossom & Burn
8. Fuck Nostalgia
10. Thanks, but No Thanks
11. Bad Habits
12. Swinging to Pieces
13. For the Lesser Good