Sometimes you have to accept that that you’ve reached the end of the road. After the best part of 12 years, Ryan Patterson leader of Kentucky punk stalwarts, Coliseum, knew, in his heart of hearts, that it was time to bring the curtain down on the band that had been his life. With the release of their more post-punk swansong
Anxiety’s Kiss, a world away from the bulky heft of their self-titled hardcore debut, it became clear that Patterson needed another outlet for the music that he wanted to make.
After a period of reflection, Patterson knuckled down and began writing songs that further explored the more alternative 1980s textures and layered post-punk guitars that had crept onto
Anxiety’s Kiss. After the release of two EPs, Principle of Pain is Patterson’s first full length under his new Fotocrime moniker. Taking his music in a bold new direction, it’s a synth-heavy post-punk album with elements of goth-rock and darkwave that shows a whole new side to Patterson as an artist.
“Nadia (Last Years Man)” opens the album with ringing, layered guitars over drum machines and murmuring electronics. Patterson’s voice sounds richer and more emotive than ever as he swaps the raw punk rage of Coliseum for more of a shadowy croon, on a song that takes aim at humanity’s enduring misogyny. “Love in a Dark Time” cooly rides in on a gnawing, deep bassline and sing-song, multi-tracked guitars as it segues from a post-punk groove to moody, dusky darkwave. It also shows a far more personal side to Patterson, one that reveals an enduring belief in the power of love to heal.
“Don’t Pity the Young” with it’s chiming post-punk guitars and throbbing electronic pulse serves as a biting critique of the older generation who continually judge the young (“If youth’s the disease/ Then love is the symptom”). On the murky, darkwave of ”
The Rose and the Thorn”, Patterson manages to find a new angle on the story of the tedium of life on the road. Featuring a sustained, repeating guitar line that evokes the almost trance-like state of watching the lines on the highway, it also delves further into the personal side of Patterson, as he reveals the pain of longing for the one left behind, in limbo, as he hits the road again. (“The long space between / You and me”)
On every song on the album, there is a subtle new texture or sonic experimentation to discover over repeated plays. On the driving
“Autonoir”, clean, Cramps-esque guitar crisply peel from behind the thick electronic backing. The stark “God’s in the Dark” sees Patterson create a thick electro groove out of analogue synths and a drum machine before weaving in female harmonies as the song expands to a surprisingly triumphantly yet stoic bridge of, “Lift us up / Tear us down / Do it all over again.”
Elsewhere, the menacing goth-rock of “Enduring Chill” is offset by the hazier “Infinite Hunger for Love”. “Confusing World” sees Patterson target toxic masculinity (“Tear the Old Guard Down”), but on a song that demonstrates what a keen ear for a direct, alt-pop chorus he has, something that was rarely called for in Coliseum. “The Soft Skin” is a stark, fragile closer with a focus on muted electronics with a lone bass for company. Patterson’s soft, almost whispered vocals are his tenderest to date as the song drifts to its conclusion.
Principle Of Pain, Fotocrime emerge with a fully formed sound that allows Patterson to channel the influences of his formative years. Musically, the album is shot through with hooks and melodies while still leaving room for experimentation and exploration of space and depth. Lyrically, he has swapped the rawer, more pointed, specific attacks of Coliseum for something more universal and relatable with a greater emphasis on challenging himself as a vocalist. It’s a rewarding, brave and wholly successful reinvention for Patterson. As the old saying goes, “as one door closes….”