Three Must-Hear Punk Albums for Spring

Downtown Boys, Full Communism (Don Giovanni)

downtown_boys_album_WEBDowntown Boys are a six-piece band out of Rhode Island, who back their politics with a barrage of punk energy and not one but two saxophones. Half of the tracks on their first full-length, Full Communism, get their point across in less than two minutes, whether decrying racism or supporting the inheritance tax. “Desde Arriba” and “Traders” churn at a fast, frantic pace: Crowds may be too busy pogo-ing and partying to make the message anything but subliminal, but it’s there. Singer Victoria Ruiz shifts from English to Spanish, often in mid-song, and shares vocals with guitarist Joey DeFrancesco—the two met while working to unionize hotel employees. The album closes with two covers: “Poder Elegir” by Los Prisioneros and Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark.” The former turns a diatribe against dictatorship into an angry dance party; the latter adds a taste of “working people living for the weekend” to the original’s pop bounce, which is probably closer to what the Boss meant anyway. ★★★✩✩

Torres, Sprinter (Partisan)

torres_sprinter_WEBThere is more than a little hope and despair on Sprinter, the second album from Torres, a.k.a. singer/songwriter/guitarist Mackenzie Scott. The disc’s producer is Rob Ellis, who’s known for his work as a drummer and producer for P.J. Harvey; Scott’s combination of lo-fi semi-folk and furious noise and confessional lyrics are reminiscent of Harvey. “Cowboy Guilt” applies a delicate touch, with shimmery guitar and flourishes of primitive electronica. The album’s standout track is “Strange Hellos,” a quiet-loud-louder exercise that opens dolefully and builds to a maelstrom of howling guitars and malevolent vocals that make “I hope you find what you’re looking for” sound less like a wish than a curse. If the rest of the songs on Sprinter don’t quite match up to its seething power, there are moments that do—Scott also has a powerful way with a lyric, often balancing the religious imagery of her Baptist upbringing with the offhand ordinariness of collecting hotel soap from every city. ★★★✩✩

Girl Band, The Early Years EP (Rough Trade)

girl_band_the_early_years_WEBThere is little that’s subdued about the dudes of Ireland’s Girl Band. They’ve already developed a reputation for their chaotic sound and unhinged live shows. That they would also have the swagger to call their first EP The Early Years comes as no surprise. The disc is a collection of singles from the past year-and-a-half, all of which emphasize the band’s demented noise-rock, which owes something to the staccato guitar shredding of Wire, the feedback barrages of Sonic Youth and the schizophrenic vocal style of the Blood Brothers. “Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage” is a hypnotic rave-up punctuated by blasts of white noise, while “The Cha Cha Cha” is a thrashed-up bit of hardcore that lasts about a minute. But “Lawman” is the killer: The bassline loops, the guitar skitters and screeches, the vocals rise and fall—each instrument appears, swapping riffs bass-to-guitar or singer-to-drums before all four find common ground and finally explode off of a shared fuse. It’s accidental, it’s genius and it makes me eager for Girl Band’s The Later Years. ★★★★✩

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