In this heated, post-election climate, I see street punk making a comeback. It’s political, aggressive, and catchy—but it’s also by and of the people. It just goes to show, if you wanna be heard, try being loud. Still, it’s not a style I hear a lot of, and I still tend to associate it with the old-guard studs-and-spikes crowd. So, color me surprised when I heard that members of the Shell Corporation and Success were forming the Drowns and playing gravelly, catchy street punk. It made sense, but it was also a total sucker punch. But, there I was, intrigued.
I know Rev from Success. He’s a killer songwriter, with a great voice, and some intense guitar chops. These Red Scare-ready instincts bring us massive choruses and heartfelt messages—but with the Drowns, I was ready to see this mode of operation translated into something rougher, more direct. It’s the meeting of two worlds, isn’t it? The punk rock of new (practically a supergroup!) playing a defiantly old-school style. View From the Bottom, from the concept alone, was immediately interesting.
The album opens with “Eternal Debate,” a call-to-action as well as in-your-face criticism. It captures the Drowns approach to street punk perfectly. Loud, direct; classically punk and catchy as all Hell. The Drowns bring to mind the blue-collar anthemics of Cock Sparrer, dragged spitting into 2018. It’s also on “Eternal Debate” where we get a taste of the Drowns’ lyrical direction. Lines like, “maybe we could solve the problems of today, people with no food and no place to stay, instead we’re locked in eternal debate,” point to a perspective implied by the album’s title: a view from the bottom. The Drowns are making a record for the underclass, the folks who get stomped on by those with a view from the top. I don’t know how many records I’ve reviewed this year that I’ve described as having a blue-collar perspective, but as pressure from the top starts to squeeze the people at the bottom, it’s nice to hear no one’s going quietly.
Songs like “Where’s Bobby,” are less political, but still paint a picture of a bleak urban landscape. Its chorus is a nostalgic joy, a callback to the days of early punk where the refrain was a simple phrase, repeated. In this case, “Bobby’s back on heroin!” Still, it’s appropriately dark, and it’d be unfair to paint it as View From the Bottom’s fun barn-burner. The chorus is direct and confrontational, mincing no words—and because of that, it sounds off like a gunshot.
But if you do want a good old fashioned barn-burner, the title track fulfills the need to scream along and throw up some fists. “View From the Bottom” is a fast-paced number with some catchy guitar licks and coughing vocals. It’s a posi fuck-you, with lyrics like “go ahead and see if I care, I got some shade here,” as well as “this view is looking pretty good from the bottom!” It’s loud, adhesive, and proud—and it makes no apologies. The final track, “Darkness,” ends the album with a message of hope, delivered in a distinctive, yet beautiful croon. What else do we need to know in dark times except that we’re not alone? “Darkness” unites rebels, outcasts, and artists—and gives them promise for a better tomorrow.
View From the Bottom is refreshingly punk. In a time where the genre can mean any of a dozen things, the Drowns set themselves up as true north. It’s a back to basics punk record where politics, filtered by the perspective of blue-collar songwriters, takes center stage. This is ten tracks of angst, anger, and community that doesn’t drag for a second. The Drowns bring their message, set their fire, and jump the fence before the sirens get close.