The hardcore scene that grew out of the fertile grounds of the early to mid-‘90s San Diego punk scene has very few survivors left. Bands formed and broke up at an alarming rate, often releasing albums posthumously; however, 12 years after their inception, and despite a revolving door membership, flagship noisemakers The Locust continue to pierce the eardrums of noiseheads worldwide. The band’s 2003 effort, Plague Soundscapes, was a monumental shift forward. It was their first disc for Epitaph subsidiary Anti- (home to folks like Tom Waits and Porter Wagoner) and also marked the beginning of their relationship with Mars Volta and At the Drive In producer, Alex Newport. With his capable hands behind the boards, the band had never sounded more professional or more punishing in their career.
Their latest effort, at least aesthetically, falls in line with their past works. The lengthy song titles (“One Manometer Away From Mutually Assured Relocation”), provocative artwork, and inventive album title are traits now very familiar with Locust fans. But from the opening blast of synths and guitars from New Erections it becomes quickly apparent that once again, The Locust are redefining the genre they helped create, which will leave imitators scrambling to keep up. Firstly, this is the most crystalline Locust recording to date, allowing every synth stab, guitar slash, and drum assault not only to be heard perfectly but also to eviscerate effectively. Where the band’s early recordings were often victims of indie production, a professional mix has only made the group that much more ferocious.
Secondly, this may be the first time in the history of the group that lyric booklets will no longer be needed. At times, the group abandons the banshee screaming for simple, fully pronounced shouting which actually lets the listener hear the words. Sure, we’re still in the dark for the majority of the album, but when choruses like “We’ll bury this city in trash” come through will the all the members shouting above their veritable din of noise, it’s hard not to get chills. Compositionally, the group adventurously take on longer running times and only one song on the disc comes in under one minute long, and what we get is an ambitious and fascinating 11-track, 23-minute throttling.
Disc opener “Aotkpta” sets the quasi-progressive tone the group lay out for the rest of the disc. Running just over three minutes, the track starts like any other Locust song with a flurry of interweaving synth and guitar lines that start and stop so quickly you might lose your balance. The song quickly builds to the aforementioned chorus before unraveling in slow keyboard swells and mutant vocals. “The Unwilling… Led By the Unqualified… Doing the Unnecessary… For the Ungrateful” tops nearly four minutes and, like the lead track, begins trademark Locust grind before launching into a even lengthier excursion of instrumental oddity and experimentation punctuated by warped vocals. But for those who just want their bi-annual dose of one-minute noise, the Locust deliver on that as well. Tracks such as “We Have Reached an Official Verdict: Nobody Gives a Shit” and “God Wants Us All to Work in Factories” still bring the straight-ahead goods the band has built their reputation on. If there is any weakness to be found on New Erections it’s simply that the group only seem to operate on two speeds: fast or slow. The longer tracks, while mostly executed with flair, are structurally similar, employing that very dynamic repeatedly. If the group fails to mix it up with a greater selection of tempos, they may fall into a rut in the future, but for now, with the album barely lasting as long as your average sitcom (without the commercials) it whips by too fast to notice.
With New Erections, The Locust have proven that the words “mature” and “watered down” aren’t necessarily synonymous in the punk community. Over a decade into their existence, they still bring the vitality and excitement that was present on their debut split release with Man Is the Bastard. New Erections is another solid entry into a growing catalog by one of the most important, contemporary punk acts in the United States today.
// Notes from the Road
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