CVA, the first full-length from Philadelphia’s Paint it Black, is not Hello Bastards. It’s not Jersey’s Best Dancers either. In fact, it’s not a Lifetime record at all, kids. And, believe it or not, there’s nary a Kid Dynamite song on the album either. Let’s come to grips with what Paint it Black is not and find out what CVA is.
As you probably know, Paint it Black is the latest incarnation of what seems to be the ongoing Dan Yemin Anthemic Punk Rock Experience (D.Y.A.P.R.E.). This is the band that "rose from the ashes," as the press kits love to say, of Kid Dynamite, who in turn "rose from the ashes" of the original D.Y.A.P.R.E, Lifetime. The most vital component in this lineage, naturally, is Dr. Dan himself. This time around, he leaves the guitar duties to Dave Hause (formerly of Philadelphia’s the Curse) and takes over lead vocal duties for the first time.
Musically, you know exactly what this sounds like: 17 songs in 19 minutes, a blur of pounding bass and drums, crunching guitars, and shouted vocals. It’s not groundbreaking, but it’s dead on. This is the way this music should sound. In a way, Paint it Black seem to be the evolution of Yemin’s de-evolution of punk rock. Whereas Lifetime, at the time of its demise, was writing more involved poppy numbers that, if released today, might just get radio airplay, Kid Dynamite played it closer to their roots and flew the punk-rock (Black) Flag high. Kid Dynamite’s second album, the aptly titled Shorter, Faster, Louder, was just that — it was motivated by the simplicity of great punk.
P.I.B. seems to be the final step in that process of stripping down, shedding all extraneous elements and writing punk rock the way it was meant to be written: shortest, fastest, loudest. With that said, the band is at its best when it finds the time to throw a nice little vocal melody into its 45-second blasts. A melody doesn’t take away from the intensity, and it’s those songs, including standouts "Womb Envy," "The Insider," and "Void," that stay with you after the album runs its course.
So Paint it Black have nailed the music and the energy and we’re all singing along and pointing our fingers as they speed off toward making a modern punk classic. In the blur that is CVA, it’s possible to start feeling that way. But after a few listens, a few holes in the record become hard to look past. The production, for starters, is top-notch–great because each element and instrument is distinct, thereby avoiding the mush that fast-paced poorly recorded punk can become. At the same time, though, the music is simple; it doesn’t really need perfection on the knob-turning end of things. And over a few listens, something in the slickness of this record starts to chip away at its raw feel.
There are also some stumbling points on the lyrical end. Most of the songs on CVA have a socio-political slant, which seems infinitely more worthwhile than writing an album full of songs that read like an eighth grader’s diary about a failed high school relationship. But I’m not so easily convinced: has punk rock been watered down to the point where we’ll cheer anyone with a few angry lines as a revolutionary? I’m not really ready to concede to that. This lyrical ground has been tread heavily before: certainly this doesn’t negate the need to address issues such as apathy ("Anesthesia") or consolidation of wealth ("Short Changed"), but at least come at me with a new angle: be challenging, go against the grain…be (gasp) punk.
I was kind of disappointed by the demo from these guys a while back. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t spectacular and, let’s be honest, that’s the burden of the "ex-members of" tag. But P.I.B. has had over a year since the release of that demo to fine-tune their sound, and it shows: CVA is a considerably better, if not an overwhelmingly original, record. I hate to do the "if you like this kind of music, then this is for you" thing, but really, that’s the case here. And I guess that’s the thing with a youth-centric musical community like punk rock — in many ways, its cyclical. There is someone out there who will feel about this album how someone else did about Hello Bastards and someone else did about Damaged or about The Crew or the first Teen Idles demos…and so on, and so it goes.