Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Review: DBCR - Two (2) Song E.P.
Kenneth of local punk band DBCR got in touch with me about reviewing his band's new 7", and had the class and generosity to send me an actual physical record! Needless to say, I couldn't refuse. Here are my thoughts.
If I remember correctly, DBCR stands for something along the lines of "Drunk Belligerent Confrontational Rock," and the band's bellicose self-presentation amplifies this message. Needless to say, this creates certain expectations--GG Allin? Pussy Galore? The Dwarves? The Cramps?-- and I was interested to hear how these guys approached their time-honored concept. I was immediately struck by their subtlety. Rather than blasting us with distortion and feedback, the two guitarists wield a warm, rich fuzztone. They skillfully play off of one another, creating interesting textures and moving in and out of unison at just the right times. Rather than incoherently foaming at the mouth, frontman Mike favors an articulate yell reminiscent of early-80s American hardcore vocalists like Henry Rollins, Ian MacKaye, and Jello Biafra, cramming tons of words into compelling vocal patterns.
If the two songs on here are meant to show two sides of DBCR, or two possible futures for their sound, then I strongly hope they follow the precedent set by their leading track, "Let Them Eat Bikes." It opens with a single guitar, on one channel, thrashing out the main riff and embellishing it with squiggly fret runs. In these first 10 seconds DBCR manage to give the song a definite character and direction. Before the drums even enter, I can already hear the badass groove. Without even hearing the bass, I know how this is gonna sound: DBCR have fused Sonic Youth and Motorhead into a single riffing style, and they make this improbable combination sound inevitable. It all unfolds from there, gloriously, with the drummer locked into the riff and the vocalist pushing ahead. He fumes, and occasionally gives in to full-on rage with a very convincing scream (my guess is he's played in straight up hardcore bands). This is a perfect punk rock single, a mailbomb of righteous anger crammed into a deceptively polished, catchy package.
B-side "Reverse Broken Window Theory" sounds like, well, a B-side. This is the slow jam, and while it's supposed to complement the energy of the first track it just makes me want to hear "Let Them Eat Bikes" again. The bluesy leads, rumbling basslines, and tom-heavy drumming of the verses owe a lot to The Birthday Party, which is cool, but I don't hear any of their power or danger. Melodically, there's just not much going on: the guitar and vocal lines kind of lack a raison d'etre, as if they're mostly hanging around to support the lyrics (which are admittedly cool). I'm also not a huge fan of the cleaner, deeper vocals here, partly because they remind me of Fugazi-era Ian MacKaye (not my thing). They're well performed, and I'd much rather listen to DBCR than fucking Fugazi, but this sound is just nowhere near as cool as the "barely restrained ranting asshole" thing on the first track.
On the basis of their sounds alone, DBCR definitely qualify as "ballsy" and "pissed," but I'm not sure I hear the "confrontational" or "belligerent"--the music is simply too clean and accessible. It's the lyrics, though, that make the difference, and I think they're actually central to what these guys are doing. While some bands rage against Christians, some rage against politicians, and some rage against posers, DBCR rage--eloquently--against affluent NYC hipsters and the plague of gentrification. This is urbanist punk rock, music oriented towards the defense of the rough, ugly spaces inhabited by working people and genuine weirdos. Armed with social theory and keen bullshit detectors, DBCR are not afraid to bash bike-normativity, "greening," and the cosmetic reconstruction of neighborhoods as skirmishes in the class war constantly waged by this city's rich against its poor. If "Let Them Eat Bikes" laments New York becoming a playground for successful graphic designers in cardigans, "Reverse Broken Window Theory" proposes a novel solution--fucking shit up. That's what punk's about, boys and girls.
My guess is that DBCR started off as the semi-joke band of a few veteran dudes, but quickly evolved into something more serious in all respects. That's a promising trajectory, especially since they haven't lost their sense of humor. I love the notion of a rock 'n' roll band that is also a sociological critique, and I am digging the blend of hooks and hate. As the weather gets warmer I'll definitely be jamming "Let Them Eat Bikes," and hoping for a new DBCR release with a slightly rawer vibe and more of that sick Motoryouth sound.
Fuck it, just download this EP for free.