By: Hunter Funk
Punk is rebel music. Always has been. The ideologies of each band may differ, but the white-hot core of the genre is, at its dimmest, one of rage, and at its brightest, revolution. However, even among the ranks of rebels, representation from perennially marginalized groups– be they females, people of color, or LGBTQ individuals– remains frustratingly sparse. With punk’s longstanding white cis male dominance, it’s all too easy to let minority-led bands fall by the wayside, so much so that almost no casual listener would guess that arguably the first U.S. punk band, early 70s Detroit three-piece Death, were African-American. Death’s politically-charged lyrics and musical chops stood ahead of their time, yet they’ve been essentially ghosted by rock historians. In the 90s, the immensely talented riot grrrl scene of the Pacific Northwest was overshadowed by their masculine grunge counterparts. As progressive as we’d like to label our modern values, such acts continue to be whitewashed today. But in the wake of the most divisive election of our time, it has never been more crucial to lend a listening ear to the voices of those fighting not to be drowned out. Enter BLXPLTN (“Blaxploitation”), the POC punk duo who’ve just put out Austin’s most vital record this year.
However, even among the ranks of rebels, representation from perennially marginalized groups– be they females, people of color, or LGBTQ individuals– remains frustratingly sparse.
New York Fascist Week comprises a bracing blend of punk, industrial, and electro. It's accessible but nonetheless confrontational, right down to the cover art of Donald Trump snorting a line of dismembered body parts. The album opens with the stirring chant, “What makes the grass grow? BLOOD BLOOD BLOOD BLOOD” and it only gets better from there. Most tracks are anchored by Jonathan Horstmann’s overdriven bass and a pummeling drum machine. Autry Fulbright and Elliott Frazier (of local darlings …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead and Ringo Deathstarr, respectively) join forces on production to lend the LP a ferocious, in-your-face sound. Songs like driving rocker “I’m Still Waiting” are catchy enough to be included on a well-curated film soundtrack, while others, like the sinister “FEMA”, channel Death Grips’ venomous industrial hip-hop. The title track even hearkens back to the no-fucks-given ethos of early Bush administration nu-metal, when everything was a fair target for anger and indignation. Frontman Taszlin Rico Muerte vows in ragged screams, “You’re not gonna stop our American dream!” His words are tailgated by a jarring glitch effect, as if the song itself were actively struggling to buck an unseen yoke of restraint.
The lyrics here are refreshingly acerbic and to the point, favoring directness over oblique symbolism.
The lyrics here are refreshingly acerbic and to the point, favoring directness over oblique symbolism. Evocative phrases leap out of the mix’s sonic firestorm like colorful signs at a rally: “Dragged to the concrete.” “Watch the whole thing burn.” “Tell your children not to leave their homes.” Amidst the carnage, there’s a welcome glimpse of solidarity and encouragement on “How Many Shots”, in which Muerte repeats “You are not alone” over iridescent synths. I’m reminded of the recently-released film Moonlight, a deeply personal look at the experience of black gay men in America. Looking from the outside in, it’s impossible to fully identify with the dual persecution faced by Muerte as one of this number, though that doesn’t lessen his message’s validity one bit. Neither does its means of delivery: rather than watering down their aggression, the band’s electronic hybrid sound only serves to augment it. Frankly, my sole qualm with NYFW may be how short it is; the whole affair wraps up in a scant 29 minutes, leaving me hungry for more.
Our city needs bands like BLXPLTN every bit as much as they require our support and attention to thrive and continue gifting us with engaging new art. Grab a copy of New York Fascist Week during your next record store visit. Play it in your car, turn up the volume, and help amplify the roar of people standing up for what they believe.