‘In Defense of the Genre’ May roundup (best songs of the month included)
In Defense of the Genre is a column on BrooklynVegan about punk, pop punk, emo, post-hardcore, ska-punk, and more, including and often especially the bands and albums and subgenres that weren’t always taken so seriously. Here are The Genre’s best songs from May.
It's June, summer is unofficially here, and hopefully everyone had a good long weekend! Here are all the punk/etc features we ran during May:
* 25 chaotic hardcore, mathcore & sasscore albums from the 2000s that are seminal today
* Kaonashi interview: chaotic post-hardcore band discuss their concept album ‘Dear Lemon House…’
* 18 songs that influenced SeeYouSpaceCowboy’s killer Myspace-core split with If I Die First
Plus these two great pieces by other writers:
* Balance and Composure's 'Separation' at 10: an unrelenting debut that defies time (by Danielle Chelosky)
* Majority Rule's trailblazing screamo classic ‘Interviews with David Frost’ turns 20 (by Alexander Rudenshiold of the band Infant Island)
May album reviews: Fiddlehead, Kaonashi, Downhaul, Stars Hollow, SeeYouSpaceCowboy / If I Die First, Mannequin Pussy, Bruce Lee Band, Hundreds of AU, Pledge, Voodoo Glow Skulls, Belvedere, Small Pictures (mem Record Setter), and the Kurama / p.s.you'redead / Thotcrime / The Queen Guillotined split.
Punk vinyl available now in our store: Fiddlehead, Have Heart, We Are The Union, 7Seconds, Sleater-Kinney, Touche Amore, mewithoutYou, The Replacements, Scream, Swingin' Utters, Dropkick Murphys, The Bouncing Souls, Adrenalin O.D., Social Distortion, and much more.
Read on for my picks of the best songs of May 2021 that fall somewhere under the punk umbrella, in no particular order...
TURNSTILE - "MYSTERY"
It's been over three years since TURNSTILE (they go by all-caps now) shook up the world of hardcore with the visionary, genre-defying TIME & SPACE, and they're finally back with a new song. Hardcore has changed a lot since 2018, and the genre's increased popularity owes a lot to the impact of TIME & SPACE, so it's great to hear that TURNSTILE are still pushing forward. This song picks up where the more radio-friendly moments of TIME & SPACE left off, and it finds TURNSTILE getting simultaneously catchier and weirder without abandoning any of their hardcore grit. It reminds me of massive albums like Nevermind and Sing The Sorrow, all while sounding unmistakably like TURNSTILE. That's no small feat.
The Linda Lindas - "Racist, Sexist Boy"
In our internet-driven era, virality is often used as a savvy marketing move. But sometimes things just go viral in a totally organic way, because they're just that good, and that's exactly what happened with The Linda Lindas. The band had already been on the rise -- they were hand-picked to open for Bikini Kill in 2019 and then tapped by Amy Poehler to cover "Rebel Girl" for the new Netflix movie Moxie -- but when they debuted their new song "Racist, Sexist Boy" on a livestream for the LA Public Library's virtual AAPI Heritage Month celebration, it exploded. "A little while before we went into lockdown, a boy came up to me in my class and said that his dad told him to stay away from Chinese people," drummer Mila said when introducing the song. "After I told him that I was Chinese, he backed away from me. Eloise and I wrote this song based on that experience." "So this is about him and all the other racist, sexist boys in this world!" bassist/vocalist Eloise shouts, and then the band kicks in with this sludgy, pissed-off, instantly-awesome song. It feels like a song their heroes Bikini Kill might've written in the '90s; it's as raw, gnarly, and full of purpose as anthems like "Rebel Girl" were back then. It's no surprise that Bad Religion's Brett Gurewitz (whose label Epitaph Records recently signed the band) tweeted the song and wrote "punk rock is back." When bands like Bad Religion were starting out, this is the future of punk that they envisioned.
p.s.you'redead - "Here I am in Feudal Japan Playing Duck Duck Goose With an 8 Foot Troll"
Earlier this month, I looked back at 25 chaotic hardcore/mathcore/sasscore/whitebelt/scenecore/annoying/etc albums from the 2000s, because the over-the-top sounds of that era are coming back in a big way. One of the best new bands doing it is Buffalo "danceviolence" band p.s.you'redead, who just dropped a 4-way split with Kurama (Texas metalcore), Thotcrime (Illinois hypergrind), and The Queen Guillotined (Buffalo deathcore) on Paper Wings Records. I feel like one day we're gonna be looking at this split as a watershed moment for the 2020s wave of chaotic hardcore, and though the entire split is great, I'm picking one song for this list and going with p.s.you'redead, who I think really capture the vibe of the bands on that 2000s list and push it forward. If you like The Blood Brothers, Heavy Heavy Low Low, An Albatross, The Number 12 Looks Like You, or other newer bands like For Your Health and SeeYouSpaceCowboy, you need to be listening to this.
Olivia Rodrigo - "good 4 u"
Punk is on the radio again! (And TikTok.) Maybe "good 4 u" will be a gateway into less popular punk bands for today's generation of kids the way that TRL pop punk was two decades ago, but either way, "good 4 u" is just a great pop punk song. The song (which, because this is a punk/emo column, I have to mention was produced and co-written with As Tall As Lions singer Dan Nigro) (stream Lafcadio) starts out in the same Lorde/Billie Eilish territory as Olivia's breakthrough hit "drivers license," but the chorus is pure, explosive, undeniable pop punk. And that very slight indie/shoegaze tint on the guitars keeps it sounding more like the current DIY pop punk scene than like the TRL era. If you've read this far and you're still wondering why this song is in a punk column, just listen to Olivia's snot-shouted "like a damn sociopath!" and try not to get smacked in the pop punk heart.
The Crew - "One Voice"
The Crew is the new supergroup of vocalist Tim Armstrong (Rancid), vocalist and guitarist Fletcher Dragge (Pennywise), vocalist Mike Muir (Suicidal Tendencies), bassist Matt Freeman (Rancid), and drummer Byron McMackin (Pennywise), and they basically sound like an exact mashup of '90s Rancid and '90s Pennywise. You already know if you love this or not.
Rise Against - "The Numbers"
I like all the songs released from the new Rise Against album so far, but if you want one that really hearkens back to their classic early 2000s melodic hardcore era, "The Numbers" is it. And not only is this one a ripper, it's also the kind of incisive political punk song that resonates as strongly now as Revolutions Per Minute did in the Bush era. And just in case the message in the song isn't clear, the video (made by activist art collective INDECLINE) really reinforces it.
Pick up a limited picture disc of Rise Against's new album in our store.
Militarie Gun - "Don't Pick Up The Phone"
Regional Justice Center leader Ian Shelton is a very prolific musician, and not only is RJC's Crime and Punishment already one of the year's best hardcore albums, it now looks like his Militarie Gun project (with members of drug Church and Modern Color) could be a contender on some AOTY lists as well. Militarie Gun gives Ian a chance to explore some of his lighter influences, and "Don't Pick Up The Phone" is even lighter than anything on the band's 2020 debut EP My Life Is Over. It's basically a jangle pop song, but still channelled through a lens of hardcore. If you like late-period Husker Du or Angel Du$t, you'll like this.
Newgrounds Death Rugby - "The World Ends With You"
Charleston, SC's Newgrounds Death Rugby will release their new LP Pictures of Your Pets on 6/24 via Sun Eater Records (the very cool new-ish indie/emo label that's home to Oolong, Guitar Fight from Fooly Cooly, Ogbert the Nerd, and more), and lead single "The World Ends With You" leaves a big impact. The song channels the feelings of anxiety, uncertainty, and instability, all while offering up a very catchy blend of noodly '90s emo and anthemic modern-day indie-punk. If you've been listening to the new Remember Sports and Sincere Engineer, you should be listening to this too.
KennyHoopla - "hollywood sucks//" (ft. Travis Barker)
Pop punk is back in a big way, thanks in large part to '90s/'00s pop punk trailblazer Travis Barker collaborating with a slew of younger artists who appeal to the TikTok generation. One of Travis' most promising new collaborators is KennyHoopla, who has released two singles with Travis so far, including this month's "hollywood sucks//." The song sounds like a cross between a lost outtake from blink-182's peak era and something only a forward-thinking artist like KennyHoopla could come up with today, and the unmistakable Travis Barker sounds arguably even more inspired on this song than he does on the latest blink-182 albums. It's total ear candy for longtime blink fans to hear Travis going nuts in the bridge, but The Greatest Punk Drummer isn't the only reason this song is good. Kenny had already perfected his own futuristic form of electronic emo-dance-punk on his 2020 how will i rest in peace if i’m buried by a highway?// EP before ever working with Travis. The two go together perfectly.
Clowns - "Does It Matter?"
Australia's Fat Wreck Chords-signed Clowns are best known for making snotty melodic hardcore, but on their first single in over two years, they offer up jangly, mid-tempo, power pop-infused punk and it's one of the catchiest punk anthems I've heard all year.
In an effort to cover as many bands as possible, I try to just do one single per album cycle in these monthly roundups, so catch up on previous months' lists for even more:
For even more new songs, listen below or subscribe to our playlist of punk/emo/hardcore/etc songs of 2021, which gets updated regularly.