This is Part 2 of the series (see part 1) where I am reviewing one random song each from each of the bands playing with Drilling for Blasting at our record release show this Saturday, Chicken Happen, The Brokedowns, and WIG. Today’s victim are the Brokedowns, I have randomly chosen the title song from their 2018 LP "Sick of Space".
This is the longest track on their record, and is a mid-tempo driver. The bulk of the verses feature a punchy driving bass line, some solid vocal rants from Jon, all of it over some great, slightly ugly feedback and atmospheric guitar work. The chorus almost starts a feel good chant, but with that thing about the Brokedowns that I love the most, they pull away from a sweet end, and make it ugly again. The choruses end with a smart, quick little minor harmony - a detail I love. The track also has a "studio" soundscape ending, thematic with the lyrics, that dissolves the end of the song in a haunting chant of bland commercial jingles. Its haunting, then uplifting, then a little sour in the sweet, and goes around like that in a great combination. The theme? The "space" they're sick of is the dehumanizing, depressing blandness of mini malls and empty retail promises that con only be the suburbs. What's this? A punk song about how the suburbs are lame? Sure, we've heard that before. But why not again? So much of punk grew out of that very disappointment, and it is really one of the enduring themes of our modern American way of life: capitalism and consumerism will set you free. While you could point to that as one of punk's classic hypocrisies: whining about entitlement problems, it doesn't make it any less genuine. The suburbs represent our modern societies' ideal: a happy, shiny, clean utopia. But to grow up there, and if you were in any way cynical or self-aware, was to feel its emptiness and fakeness, and you learned that the it was more lie than truth, and you were stuck living in this fantasyland. As a kid, you were told it was so perfect, but all you saw was the shallowness of it all. Yup, depressing.
The Brokedowns come from this world (as does your humble reviewer), and most of them are still there. "Sick of Space" brings those feelings right back, and they've never left. But the song isn't coming from a full-of-rage 15 year old (or trying to sound like it), its coming from the weary anger of middle-aged men still coping with the let down of this fake dream. I can feel the emptiness of the car culture and McMansions that drove neighbors and communities into today's isolated and lonely little islands, surrounded by growing mountains of meaningless possessions. It's all here, but somehow hearing the Brokedowns try to make some sense of it gives me a little reassurance - it's nice to know I'm not alone in trying to keep my sanity in spite of the world gone mad. I can't listen to any music without relating it to some other music else, and this song has a solid connection to the sound of Chicago's own Canadian Rifle. CR and them have been playing together for years, so there's no surprise at some cross pollination, and this track brings that out in a great way. I don't think either band would mind me making that connection.
Next, and last, on the review firing line is WIG.