UK’s Subhumans have never been one to rush out releases. True to the point that prior to their new album Crisis Point, their last full length was 2007’s Internal Riot, and before that, 1986’s 29:29 Split Vision. But this lack of regular output has nothing to do with the band’s lack of work, far from it, Subhumans of course, share members with long-running punk/ska outfit Citizen Fish and reggae/ska band Culture Shock, and when Citizen Fish/Culture Shock are busy, as expected, Subhumans are not so much. 2019 however, seems like a good time for anarcho-punks to speak up and speak out, something Subhumans have called their bread and butter since their formation all the way back in 1980 (they still have one of the best punk rock logos in music history). Their political commentary has found itself some new fire and Crisis Point is what you expect from a Subhumans record- angry, cutting punk rock that is unafraid to take a shot at today’s climate of distrust, violence, fake news, and rights and freedoms.
The album’s tone is set early, with the opening cut “Terrorist in Waiting” proclaiming that “everyone’s a terrorist in waiting”, backed to blitzing riffs, machine gun percussion work and Dick Lucas’ British snarl that eschews vocal melodies for the more dangerous, poetic slam deliveries. It’s the working formula for Crisis Point, one that’s been the Subhumans modus operandi since their inception. Crisis Point has songs about conspiracy theories (“Fear and Confusion”), political imbalance (“Follow the Leader”), and climate and societal pollution (“Poison”), all wrapped in the kind of production aesthetic that is quintessential punk. Not to say the production quality is tinny, or lo-fi, but it doesn’t fall victim to the production malpractice of making everything loud for the sake of making everything loud. Instead, it sounds crisp- and tracks like the chaotic “Strange Land” and the rock n’ roll infused “99%” sound all the more biting.
In today’s glossy, overproduced landscape of streaming music, it’s great to hear a record that you can be listened to as a whole without it needing to be some overcooked concept album. It is this no BS, no frills, authentic approach to songwriting that makes Crisis Point a welcomed addition to the Subhumans discography. It doesn’t deviate too far from anything they’ve done in the past but the record has both the lyrical and musical content to rile up the listener. Most importantly, it still has all the fire and anger they’ve shown through their long running history. Even with such long gestation periods in between releases, there is very little diminishing of returns. And while the album is best digested as a whole because its songs are the parts that make the sum great, Crisis Point is succinct, pissed off, and relevant.
Crossed Keys – Saviors
Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds
Philadelphia’s Crossed Keys are an interesting intersection between melodic hardcore and punk, taking an earnest approach to the sound that made its way from the underground in the late 90s and early 2000s. This relatively new outfit is the result of Kid Dynamite and Samiam in a blender- in the best way possible. The Kid Dynamite influence may be a given since Crossed Eyes features KD’s drummer Dave Wagenschutz, but the band’s pedigree also includes members of bands like Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer and The Curse, all backing the melancholic vocal work of frontman Joshua Alvarez (Halo of Snakes). So while Crossed Keys are somewhat new, its members have been cutting their teeth within their respective circles for years, and their new EP Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds.
Saviors is backboned by the furious urgency and energy that Kid Dynamite showed through their history, but while Jason Shevchuk’s vocals were beautifully abrasive, Alvarez takes a more restrained, wistful approach to singing. Songs like the opening “Times of Grace” are musically up-tempo percussions and razor-sharp guitars, but are buoyed by Alvarez’s more melodic vocals. His vocals rest at a good place between Samiam’s Jason Beebout and that NYHC tone exhibited by bands like Token Entry and Grey Area. In songs like “R.J.A” and the closing title track, Crossed Keys find more success with their brand of blistering speed meets harmony- slowing down only for the kind of melancholic punk that made Samiam a noted name. While much of Saviors is built on pace, it wasn’t always this way for the band. In fact, their 2017 EP, I’m Just Happy That You’re Here, leans closer to Samiam than it does to Kid Dynamite (the song “Jeff Pelly vs. The Empire” is particularly fantastic), so there’s been an uptick of urgency with Saviors.
For fans of any of the aforementioned bands here, there is plenty to like with Crossed Keys and plenty to like in Saviors. It’s succinct, to the point, but filled with ample reflection and exploration that gives the EP depth and resonance. Any band that has found influence from Kid Dynamite is most certainly OK by us (this site is named after a KD song after all), but Crossed Keys does more than just tip their cap. This one’s a really good one, and worth your time.
Pine – Pine
Pine’s debut album is a kind of hypnotic melancholia
Where did Ottawa’s Pine come from? It’s a question worth asking after listening to their painfully gorgeous self-titled debut album. Pine use the phrase “doom and gloom never sounded so sweet” to describe their sound, and true to that, this 11-track outing is filled with the kind of hypnotic melancholia that became the playbook for a great many Midwestern emo bands that emerged in the late 90s/early 2000s. The biggest difference here is that while Pine have the heartbreak down pat, their musical sense of loss is lifted slightly by the airy, more wistful sounds of their guitar-strewn songs. Sure, there’s a lot that sounds like a great Mineral record or a Gloria Record album, but there’s also traces of Florida indie/emo band The Rocking Horse Winner and at times, bands like Rainer Maria.
Pine are buoyed by the great vocal work of Darlene Deschamps. Her voice soars through tracks like “Memento” and the terrific “Lusk”. The latter in particular is a great example of how Pine lull you into a sense of calm before it explodes in a collage of symphonic distortion and post-rock twinkling. In “Sunder” they ascend to louder, more expansive sounds. The song is a great combination of thick, fuzzy guitars, mid-tempo percussion work, and that pained vocal delivery that gives the song an extra punch in the guts.
The album took an impressive 2 years to finish, and you can hear the trials and tribulations of that gestation period through the songs. There’s pain, sadness, anger and frustration in songs like the intro “Within You” and the more new emo-esque “Swollen”, but also beauty, and as the album concludes, a sense of incredible catharsis. The record SOUNDS great too, with production values (by a production team that includes Will Yip, who has helmed records by Circa Survive, Braid, Saosin, and the Bouncing Souls to name a few) adding to the grand cinematic finish of the record.
For those who love what emo was in the mid to late 90s will find much to like about Pine just as much as those who like Explosions in the Sky and their post-rock brethren. Pine have been crafting their sound over the last few years and while their previous EP Pillow Talk showed a solid foundation, this new self-titled record is the work of a band close to the height of their abilities. Moving, beautiful, and littered with life’s roller coaster of emotions as songs, Pine is definitely recommended listening.