One of the most commanding elements of punk rock has always been the marriage of medium and message. Arguably more so than any other genre, punk has brought together ideas and structure. As such, in its heyday, it was impossible to misunderstand. Talk Hard, Play Hard — Live Fast, Play Fast.
Now, I’ve never been one for “the way it was, the way it’s supposed to be” lectures, but let’s be honest: It’s obvious that that mentality has eroded. I’m not even going place value judgments on this change (it sucks bags of donkey dicks), but suffice it to say that Simple Plan is not carrying on any tradition laid forth by Discharge, outside of inexplicably having their T-shirts worn exclusively by really ugly people.
Whether that’s good or bad isn’t for me to say (it’s cancer-level bad); the point is, Wrangler Brutes are here to wave the punk-rock spirit flag high again. Not unlike Venomous Concept (the new band featuring dudes from Brutal Truth, the Melvins and Napalm Death that recently put out the best record you ignored), the Brutes are a virtual Awesome-Old-Dude yearbook, featuring Sam McPheeters from Born Against and dudes from Monorchid and Universal Order of Armageddon. Musically, this is no frills, intelligent thrash punk. Everyone throws around Black Flag when talking about anything remotely fast and pretty pissed, but I’d be hard pressed to find a better reference. There’s none of that ultra-heavy, overproduced Rick Rubin guitar crunch; rather, simple, straight-ahead riffs on instruments that sound like — believe it or not — guitars rather than a militia of jackhammers. As such, it’s also notably void of lame choreographed “mosh parts,” for whatever that’s worth to you (cheat sheet: a lot). So … go home, fat kids.
And speaking of breaking away from lazy arrangements and presentation, Sam McfuckingPheeters, dude. Witty, angry lyrics refreshingly void of cliches or empty slogans and remarkably arranged, at times, less like prose and more like a conversation — between, you know, smart, borderline crazy people. Trademark snarl still intact, McPheeters makes this almost as good as those Born Against re-issues a couple years ago, and in some ways better, because this band fucking kills it live in a way that your bedroom-mosh to Battle Hymns for the Race War just really can’t hold a candle to.
In sum, if a lot of toothy Brits or wannabe-Brits or whoever these people are all get on the retro-train and try to sound like every band that already sucked twenty years ago and NME is going to continue blowing smoke up their gaybutts (is that magazine even staffed by real people?), then let’s at least revisit a time and genre of music worth — and demanding of — our goddamn attention, eh?