As I sit down to finally trim my end of year album list down from 23 to a hard-won 10, I feel excited. Not so much by the task ahead of me (which is agony), but the realisation it brings: 2018 is truly, finally, almost over. A year that has crawled along so slowly that it often didn’t seem to be moving at all, the regular passage of time perpetually stymied by a never-ending stream of fucking horrible things. Back in February, I wrote about that delicious moment of fate when you hear a record for the first time, at exactly the moment you need to hear it. An experience that leaves you, briefly, disconnected from reality because in that moment, it’s just too surreally succinct to be anything but a narrative device for the benefit of some unseen audience.
Those moments feel significant, I think, particularly because of their rarity, and so it feels almost greedy to have experienced two of them in one year. But there ends the similarity between the two records in question. I started this year feeling optimistic, ready for change and growth, and Nervus’ Everything Dies was the perfect album to pick me up and gently carry me along while I started on that journey. But reader, as December drags out its final days (and me, reluctantly, along with it) and this god-awful year comes to a close, I find myself returning to the same thought every day, and with every listen: thank fuck for this Drug Church record.
Cheer is, in many ways, an archetypal punk record – loud, aggressive, bratty. When vocalist Patrick Kindlon has a target in his sights, the venom oozes from every snarled line. Lyrically, it’s obnoxiously anti-establishment, railing against The Man (‘Unlicensed Hall Monitor’), capitalism (‘Foam Pit’), and the police (‘Tillary’) with tangible enthusiasm. I’d defy anyone who’s ever suffered through a shitty dead-end job to refrain from throwing their fists in the air and belting along to Kindlon’s gleeful cries of “Fuck you, for $12.50 an hour // I should have started a chemical fire // I should have burned this fucking place to the ground” on ‘Weed Pin’.
Anger is the dominating force on Cheer. But there are moments – often fleeting, but always significant – where righteous fury at the broken social contract gives way to weary resignation. ‘Foam Pit’ is a scathing dissection of the power imbalance between employer and employee, that builds to a pointed anticlimax: “Got hot from anger and melted straight into my couch // At least there’s some self in self-destruction.” That journey, from anger to capitulation, to ultimately turning that frustration inwards, feels particularly resonant during this, the longest year in living memory.
In ‘Strong References, Kindlon describes being “somewhere between low expectations, and a decade-long malaise”, which feels like a pretty accurate description of 2018. At the start of the year I started therapy, much of which involved developing coping strategies that focused on control, on relaxation, on keeping calm. A formidable task at the best of times, but one that seems particularly difficult in the face of everything that has happened this year. How do you keep calm when you are bombarded with news cycles on a constant rotation of genocide, the global rise of fascism, the rapidly approaching heat-death of the earth, not to mention the regular, day-to-day disappointments and heartbreaks of you and yours?
When it feels increasingly as though anger is only valued as a conduit to achieve something, rather than as a natural and healthy response to a bad situation, Cheer feels that much more vital for its unapologetic animosity. And so I’ll say it again: thank fuck for this Drug Church record, for championing the idea that it’s okay to just be pissed off, without having to make it useful or find a solution for any of the various messes we’re in. “Something often lost: life is process, not product”.
- Drug Church – Cheer
- Foxing – Nearer My God
- Mitski – Be The Cowboy
- Nervus – Everything Dies
- Turnstile – Time & Space
- Long Neck – Will This Do?
- Donovan Wolfington – WAVES
- Alien Boy – Sleeping Lessons
- Shamir – Resolutions
- Jeff Rosenstock – POST-