Hardcore has historically been a formulaic genre. Some might say derivative, but the fine line between a template and a rip off is indeed in place. Sing along choruses, breakdowns, and chugging or galloping bass lines are genre markers for hardcore. It is difficult to say newer hardcore bands are ripping off Minor Threat, Youth of Today, or, hell, even Lifetime, another band Philadelphia’s Paint It Black’s singer, and joint producer Dan Yemin played guitar for. Hardcore bands have always been drawing from the same musical pot, but some bands are better at kicking that formula up a notch. Ink and Dagger, the band that Paint It Black (nope, its not a blatant Rolling Stones reference, thank you) gets its moniker from, was one such band. Sean Patrick McCabe (rest in peace) and company bent the boundaries of hardcore and twisted the conventions to come up with songs that were not merely distinctively hardcore, but distinctive altogether. Paint It Black picks up from Ink and Dagger’s bloody vampire trails and their 3rd album, New Lexicon, is actually not a complete misnomer. Yemin and company have managed to fuse Ink and Dagger and Lifetime to come up with an album that makes you sing along, pump your fists, gets that mosh pit going in your head. Oh, and they have a groove to boot. Between a new Lifetime album last year, and this new offering from Paint It Black, Mr. Yemin has been a very busy musical man.
Dispensing with Ink and Dagger’s vampire trappings and showing the band’s and especially Yemin’s mid to late 30s agenda, the lyrics address the political climate, the sense of drowning but fighting the status quo, and even get a bit personal, as Yemin alludes to his recent divorce as well. It’s a bigger worldview than a fantasy one. And the sophisticated production (Oktopus from hip hop demons Dalek lends a hand) and interplay of two guitars lets hardcore fester and blossom into the something bigger it’s always hinted at becoming. Though hardcore used to be the preserve of 18-year-old guys, it hasn’t aged all that badly really, more like a fine wine that’s only reaching its peak after 15 years.
The one two punch of "Missionary Position" (no, not that missionary position) and "White Kids Dying of Hunger" easily be the bastard offspring of Ink and Dagger and Lifetime; Siamese twins joined at the hip by a mesh of electronic noodling. "Shell Game Redux" is an asskicker of a closing track, with extra vocals from Naked Raygun’s Jeff Pezzati and a most infectious anthemic chorus. And for all of us pushing for a regime shift this election year, the resounding sing along at then end of "Past Tense, future Perfect", "We are invincible/we may bend but we will not be broken" couldn’t be more apt. Reaganomics and excess were the original targets of the wave of hardcore led by Minor Threat, and Paint It Black’s politics are a direct descendent, minus the straight edge agenda. Some people might call still listening to hardcore nostalgic or more harshly, a case of arrested musical development, but when a band can twist hardcore into something sophisticated, heavier, and more exciting and inventive than the sum of its formulaic parts, being over 18 (OK, well over 30 in my case and the band’s) and still loving that sound is not so ignoble, now is it?