For Show Me the Body, war is at the doorstep, but it isn’t a war fought with guns. It’s fought with voice. Since their first release, 2014’s Yellow Kidney EP, Show Me the Body have used their brand of hardcore punk to ruminate over oppressive authorities, gentrification, homelessness, and how these factors can leave a person feeling like a caged animal set loose. They contemplate the pressures of being an outcasted individual in a callous, indifferent city, leaving people alienated by the gutter, unable to meet social expectations, and full of animosity because there are so few alternatives.
Still, their music never feels hopeless. This is the case with Trouble the Water, their third LP released through Loma Vista Records. Strident and righteous, Show Me the Body are a workhorse band with a persistent will to fight back instead of wasting away. They’ve even grown an extended family through their record label and community-building platform, known as Corpus Collective, complete with a manifesto preaching respect, solidarity, and “intellectual warfare”.
Musically, Show Me the Body’s style of hardcore is innovative, creating new dynamics in how they mix rap with heavy music. Considering how corny this mix of genres can be, it’s a risky move, yet they’ve managed to make it feel unprecedented. Now, Trouble the Water sees the group comfortable making music they love without conforming to specific genres. Mainstays of their music are still heard: Harlan Steed’s monstrous bass and synth tones, frantic yet danceable drum patterns from newcomer Jackie Jackieboy, and Julian Cashwan Pratt’s signature distorted banjo providing unique high-end textures unheard in hardcore punk. They are not opposed to practicing standard hardcore tropes, yet aim to propel hardcore to new heights. Most importantly, Show Me the Body’s music is livid and empowering, as confrontational and heartful as hardcore punk can be.
Trouble the Water introduces guitar to portions of their songs, expanding their sound and adding weighty crunch. Chugging electric guitars allow the band to lean further into sludgier, metallic textures on “War Not Beef” and the closing title track, both about a hate-fueled search for truth. Other tracks are more beat-driven hardcore jams, which would be more invigorating for a live show compared to the rest of the album, a little less preachy and didactic. “Buck 50” is the most accessible track on Trouble the Water because of its easily digestible progression and flowing rap. “Demeanor” and “Using It” are the most danceable tracks, the former about desiring new experiences and the latter about using time wisely and avoiding banality (and also about using drugs).
Pratt’s voice shifts from spoken word to rap to caustic barks. You can almost see strings of saliva flying, lips rippling close to the globe of a microphone. When he isn’t snarling wrathfully, Pratt’s voice resonates with intimacy rooted in self-reflection juxtaposed with social criticism. Album opener “Loose Talk” – about the violent, predatory nature involved in living in a social world as well as the necessity for building something substantial, something to apply purpose to one’s life – begins with deeply personal energy, as if he’s speaking to you face to face. “Out of Place”, an intensely quiet track, recalls the sentiments of social alienation from “Rubberband” on 2021’s Survive EP, this time over ominous 1980s synth sounds. “WW4”, with its clean banjo and campfire acoustic guitar picking, is not only an ode to Corpus Collective but also about the necessity to be respectful and honest.
Like their previous releases, Trouble the Water is profoundly rageful and violent. Songs like “We Came to Play”, “Food From Plate”, and “Boils Up” epitomize Show Me the Body’s combative position through merciless lyrics and brutally groovy riffs strengthened by mid-tempo pacing. The songs continually build and explode with snide, defiant tones involving feelings of rejection and a lack of belonging.
Possibly the most personal and loaded track on Trouble the Water, “Radiator” is about being stained by regrets, an inability to root oneself, never being comfortable in one spot, and an ambivalence towards home, all punctuated by chaotic drumming in the last third of the song. This kind of spirited candor makes Show Me the Body so admirable. They are as thoughtful and provocative as they are productive, as angry as they are respectful, and music and community-building is their chosen mode of focusing tension.