No Heroes In New England // Week of June 19, 2016

It’s a new week, and you know what that means: a new week of New England hardcore that’s guaranteed to rip the eardrums out of your head. I’ve decided to head more in the direction of traditional hardcore punk this week, but don’t think that these bands are going to go easy on your ears; after all, this is hardcore. This is audible brutality. This is No Heroes In New England.

(For last week’s entry, click here.)

Campaign Committee

I’ve been trying for a while to try to write an introduction befitting this band, but that seems to be an impossible task. Perhaps the title and the cover of this band’s EP—Let’s Die?, with an ice cream cone on a purple background—speaks for itself. (Read: lots of awesome weirdness.)

This is Campaign Committee, a hardcore band from Boston with perhaps the most original sound I’ve heard in a newbie hardcore band as of late.

Honestly, this album is insane, if the name of it didn’t already give off that impression. I like to think of its sound in soap opera terms; it’s like if Refused had bastard children with Converge, but then Young And In The Way—Refused’s enraged and cuckolded lover—finds out and decides to set everything on fire. We’ve got a meaty portion of hardcore, ranging from light hardcore punk influences to some post-hardcore (especially on the opening of the track “Un Duex Trois Control”) to more metallic hardcore sounds, with some serious experimentation in terms of song structure, all topped off with some of the most vicious black metal vocals I’ve ever heard. Seriously, the vocals are so savage that they border on parody, sort of like John Zorn and Yamatsuka Eye’s vocal style for the Naked City project.

On top of everything, the band seems to have a masterful control over satirical humor; despite the ice cream cone and the pithy track name “Vote Maybe On Proposition Go Fuck Yourself,” there’s a definite tension and point behind it all. I’d love to go into the lyrics, but the band doesn’t provide any on it’s Bandcamp page, and most of the vocals are screamed in that screeching black metal style and are thus pretty indecipherable.

Simply put: this is not traditional hardcore in any sense of the word; Campaign Committee is strange in both their presentation and execution, but with that deviation from what we consider “normal” comes some songwriting of such quality that I’m surprised the band isn’t bigger or hasn’t released anything else.

Handsome Mansion

I don’t know about you, but I was probably first introduced to punk through the Tony Hawk skateboarding games and their kickass soundtracks. (I still remember my dad making me turn down the volume of the first game because the Dead Kennedys‘s “Police Truck” was on the soundtrack. It’s not a coincidence that I remember the lyrics to it pretty well to this day.) Boston’s Handsome Mansion reminds me a lot of that type of music—skate punk and poppy, “happy” hardcore like early AFI, Adolescents and Bouncing Souls—except that there’s a lot more going on than just that. There’s of course, some pretty stellar and positive moments all over their self-titled EP (currently the only thing they have/that I could find), but the band isn’t afraid to go straight hardcore punk with tracks like “Wet Leather” or the ending chorus of “Brotherhood of Death,” or even add some straight-up rock elements like the intro to “Dog Song.”

Obviously, Handsome Mansion isn’t the traditional “hardcore” that I’ve been touting for most of this column’s existence—it’s much more reminiscent of the classic hardcore punk of the 1980s—but I think that it’s a nice breath of fresh air in a way. Punk, and the term “hardcore” have a very gray definition, in my opinion, and it’s cool to still see a band keep this aspect of the genre alive without becoming nauseating (cough cough Offspring cough), and while nicely balancing a variety of punk subgenres.

Sunshine Ward

Shit. I just realized I’ve gone through all these weeks without even giving Discharge and the d-beat scene even a basic nod. Well, that’s all going to change here. Boston’s Sunshine Ward isn’t exactly Discharge or d-beat, but there’s enough of an influence of both in their music that it’s worth mentioning. (Not to mention the fact that the band tagged themselves as d-beat on their Bandcamp page). Overall, though, this is some pretty aggressive and noisy hardcore punk that sounds a bit more British than American. It’s a lot rawer than most American punk (in my opinion), which I personally like, but it has a little bit (I think) of the old DC hardcore scene in it as well, especially in its gang vocals and guitar work.

But while I do think that Sunshine Ward makes some good music, and they’re definitely a band to look out for in the hardcore punk underground, I really wonder how original their sound is. As much as I love it, it’s all sort of been done before. While other bands I’ve covered, like Vaulted or Haste, proudly wear their influences on their sleeve, I think that they both have an original take on those old sounds. I can’t really say the same for this. I mean, even look at their logo—it’s just the old Sex Pistols logo font. It sort of makes you wonder how much of this is more of an elaborate homage than a real punk band.

But, those thoughts aside, I really enjoy this band. I certainly wouldn’t recommend something on this column that I haven’t given my own stamp of approval. Sunshine Ward doesn’t bore me, as many copycats do, and the energy they bring to their performance is laudable. Their instrumentation is tight. I think what they might need is some time to discover their own unique voice. It’s absolutely there, considering how well they’re writing music, but it just needs to be uncovered a bit.

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