Drug Church‘s sound has been this constantly developing and evolving being, but they’ve never found their feet quite as strongly as they have in Cheer. Their prior album, Hit Your Head from 2015, played with some experimental elements and explored their take on punk, and leads so well into their sound on Cheer. Released on November 2nd, 2018 via Pure Noise, the album has this aura about it, listening in feels nostalgic in an odd way, like hearing a band you love finally find themselves and hit a sound you feel will make them explode.
Lyrically the album is quite dark, an approach on growing up and fitting in with a hopeless backdrop, focusing in on poverty and mental illness as foundation. Starting with the opening track ‘Grubby,’ someone unwilling to grow up and a comment on conformity meaning an easier ride, but a shorter one. This rolls into ‘Strong References,’ a track based on vocalist Patrick Kindlon’s nude modelling experience when he was younger. It doesn’t have quite the impact of a lot of the other songs, but it certainly paints an uncomfortable picture and leads into the quite direct conversation on the black dog of depression in ‘Avoidarama.’ The latter has an energetic and addictive sonic atmosphere, from the constant flowing beat to the scratch of the guitar.
Some of the imagery and language used is quite bleak, particularly within ‘Dollar Story,’ painting a vivid picture of poverty outlined with mental illness. “There’s an energy to poverty you can’t run from,” followed later by a raw and telling line “You can adjust to anything if you’re leaving.” The anger and determination in the song is complimented by the ending, rejecting the previous message desperately.
On top of the fantastic lyricism and vocal performance from Kindlon is a sonic triumph still firmly in the grit of the genre. Tracks like ‘Unlicensed Hall Monitor’ echo their way in and beg for the listener to move with it. There’s a distinct flow to their sound, a style amongst a grunge leaning punk atmosphere. As Kindlon screams out; “A grown man who can’t handle his life for shit, a scummy fraud who wants to be your boss, can’t handle his shit,” the music swells and explodes along with him. Then on Conflict Minded the band switches perfectly from chaotic and aggressive with Kindlon’s vocals to a softer gentle sound with the fantastic guest vocals from Carina Zachary of Husbandry.
The final track, Tillary,’ has that gentler beat to it, still bursting forth in peaks of emotion, but the band shows a mastery of range. The soft plucking rolls into their sound so well, combined with the subject matter of police and the poison of power, and the intensity Kindlon puts into it, ‘Tillary’ becomes an iconic part of Drug Church’s whole discography as we’re led out of the album.
Drug Church bring forth their previous aura, this strange nostalgic feeling of the trashier side of growing up, Kindlon has said it himself before. It’s raw, his hoarse voice, the whine of the guitars, the energy and emotion of the performance from all side. It’s growing up in the suburbs in a bad neighborhood, it’s finding yourself while there are no solid footholds for you. And most of all, it gets under your skin and truly stays there. Cheer is an amazing album, front to back, that explores this side of life like never before.
Stream the album below.