Album Review: Leftover Crack – “Constructs of the State”

AnarchoPunk royalty Leftöver Crack has been pretty quiet on the album front since releasing their ska-core masterpiece, Fuck World Trade back in 2004. The lack of output may have something to do with their controversial and well documented break up with heavyweight label, Epitaph Records or maybe it’s more of a quality over quantity thing. But now, it seems they may have a new and rejuvenated outlook after signing with Fat Wreck Chords following a few years of courting by Fat Mike. This fresh outlook is evident on this, their third full length studio album. From the quality of the sound mixing and production value, down to even the cover art (LoC album cover in color!?!) everything seems to be a slight step up from prior offerings. While it is assuredly more of a polished, “produced” sound, it seems more like a natural progression and less like it’s being forced. The absence of former band mate Ezra Kire can be felt, but it doesn’t detract from the quality of the album. So, while the sound is still familiar this seems to be a turning point for the band. Overall, the thirteen track LP validates the old saying, “Good things come to those who wait” as almost every song will resonate with fans of these crust core elites. Sidenote: Does anyone else find it slightly amusing that this is being released on the day most associated with consumerism/capitalism?

Diversity is probably the most applicable word to use when describing Leftöver Crack Volume III: Constructs of the State. Like with 90’s rap artists, LoC is known to bring in guest musicians and vocalists to collaborate on tracks, they are after all, anarchists. This album isn’t any different and if anything, goes a step further than it’s predecessors, in that almost every song features a supporting artist. This creates a unique musical conglomeration as each track tends to take on a slightly contrasting sound based on the contributing artist. Speaking of those guest artists, there’s a virtual rogue’s gallery, from members of anarcho legends, CRASS and The Dead Milkmen to more contemporary acts like Chewing on Tinfoil and The Riverboat Gamblers. The one thing that doesn’t change and most likely will never change is the quartet’s abrasive attitude and the message they deliver. As always the lyrics are overtly political, fiercely anti-religious and anti-authoritarian. The best thing about the album in my opinion, was trying to figure out who contributed on which tracks, a feat which I still haven’t completed.

The opening track “Archaic Subjugation” is one of the few songs that maintains it’s natural LoC sound. The recognizable guitar distortion and feedback, wailing like an alarm over top of blistering fast drums right before the gravelly, labored vocals of Sturgeon kick in. Standard fare for the initiated but from there on, things get a little less familiar. “Loneliness & Heartache” is the most noticeable deviation from the their regular sound, at least from the first half of the LP. It’s more upbeat and has a pop tone to it. The early highlight is the track that was released a few weeks back as a teaser to the album release, “System Fucked” which features Jesse Michael of Op Ivy. As expected, it’s very heavily ska influenced, with simple repetitive guitar riffs before getting back to the faster, street hardened sound. While this type of mix isn’t foreign to the band, there is a definite delineation from their typical ska-core sound. Included, along with the eleven new tracks are two cover songs. “Last Legs” written by folk troupe Blackbird Raum gets a hardcore makeover, diverging greatly from the alpha version which may be the folkiest(?) folk song I’ve ever heard.

The second half of the album has just as many gems as the first half. Some of the best are “Poliamor Fiesta Crack!” which is a sarcastic,snide criticism of societal misogyny and my personal favorite, “Vicious Constructs” from which the album gets it’s name. “Lie of Luck”  previously released as a single on Fat Music Volume 8, might be the other strong contender for best track. The only real miss here is “Amenecer de los Muertos”. I don’t know what it is about this song, but it just seems out of place and almost included as an afterthought. I guess the message is about over-commercialization but it just doesn’t land and could’ve been packaged better, in my opinion. Wrapping up the LP and on the opposite end of the cover song spectrum, we have “The War at Home” originally written and performed by SoCal, poli-punkers, Intro5pect. Whereas “Last Legs” is a wholly different musical interpretation, this cover sounds almost exactly like the original, released back in 2007, which featured STZA (confused yet?) and is by far the most out of place sounding track on the album with heavy synthesizers and an electronica sound. That being said, it’s still a great anthem that has a perfect, catchy chorus line and some razor sharp guitars. It’s a good fit even if it is just a carbon copy of the original.

After over a decade of waiting, this album meets almost every expectation. While it does differ from previous albums, it maintains the fundamental sound, delivery and core themes. Leftover Crack seems to be back on track (Alliteration!!!) after a long hiatus of releasing new material. Now, with the backing of the well connected and respected team at Fat Wreck Chords they can hopefully sustain this momentum and continue to cultivate their creativity on a more consistent basis to further solidify their place in the punk community as the amplifier for the proletariat.

4/5 Stars

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