DIY has always been an important part of the punk scene and there is no denying that easy moving mp3s, home recording software, and a bazillion online distribution outlets have made it easier than ever for bands to get their music out to the masses.
But at some point, an over-saturation occurred; I think all of us have had the experience of glossing through a dozen bands that you couldn’t tell apart if you were listening to them on random.But I also think everyone has had that great experience of the find, the jewel at the bottom of the sifter, that moment when you hear “it”, and “it” being THE sound of punk rock no one can truly put into words. I had that moment when I stumbled upon The Rebel Spell about two years ago.
Needless to say I was strongly anticipating their latest album, “Beautiful Future,” the band’s 3rd full-length release. At this time, it looked like Rebel Time Records were revamping their website so I had to order the mp3 download directly from the Rebel Spell website. The site also passed along a really boss PDF of the album art and lyric sheet.
As a global comment, “Beautiful Future” is awesomely recorded. Instead of be perfected with spit and polish, it has the raw sound of a bare-bones approach to gear: no crazy effects, perfectly clipped and EQ’d distorted tones, or heightened vocal range. It has live band energy to it, especially in the harmonies, and a fuzzy, deep low end. The louder you play it, the better it gets.
The music is a straightforward. Three to four chords and cloud of dust. I don’t have any drummer vocabulary, but she beats the everlasting shit out of them on every song with the same muted, smashing gallops you hear in a lot of the mainstay anarcho-hardcore bands. I read somewhere they had picked up a new bass player, and it was a great pickup, bringing more upside to this release as the bass player is more prominent and distinct than in the other albums. There is Matt Freeman similarity and I mean the Matt Freeman on the first Rancid self-titled of 93’.
The band also added a few other new wrinkles. There are some lead vocals by someone other than Todd in the song “Tragedy,” a great dual punch sound. A piano and a violin were also dropped in without a seam. The vocals, both lead and backing, have always been a strong element of their past albums and stay the course in this one. The lyrics come across effortless even with a good deal of gravel in the gut. No cheesy rhyme schemes or clichéd choruses, just a stand-and-deliver approach that’s articulate. The choruses are anthemic goods, and the album is soaked with catchy, delayed call-and-responses that repeat and repeat and repeat with momentum. It’s cathartic.
The threads running through the lyrics are identification, angst and ultimately confrontation, beginning with the title song that sarcastically paints a dystopic future. The theme that runs forward from this opening is what I find most interesting about this album. From this despair comes forth a highly positive album about making difference by exposing social injustices and resisting them at every corner. Some songs like “Tragedy” and “Feel the Same” bring out the fight through a straightforward call to arms, while some songs like “Current Occupants” and “The World Turned Upside Down” have a sort of Bad Religion feel by drawing upon irony and keen observation. In the end, it’s an organic album with a free approach to putting out the music and there is no doubting that all four of these members have singing with their hearts stuffed in their mouth and bleeding on the instruments.
If you haven’t heard them, check them out. If you’ve heard them and liked them, then you’ll enjoy this one too.
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