In so many ways, those who are living in today's world, see very little promise as to what the future holds. If you're making happy go lucky punk rock in 2018, you're probably a rich rock star who isn't dealing with the harsh realities of being an artist in today's stifling world. In 1977 when Sex Pistols chanted "no future" on "God Save The Queen," it resonated because it was true for the youth of that era.
More than 40 years later, Houston's Lace say the exact same phrase without ever emitting the words. On their debut full length album, Human Condition, the five piece redefine what hardcore punk and post-punk can sound like, and give new blood to both for the first time in a very long time. In ten tracks they take you down a road of despair, depression, and darkness from a generation living in Trump's America who sees no light at the end of the tunnel.
It should be noted, that this record is dark in so many ways, but that's the point. In no way is this the NoFX or Green Day version of punk you may be used to. This is unabashed and unapologetic, the way true punk should be. Opening with the assaulting and arresting sounds of "Amnesia," it's quickly apparent that Lace doesn't want you to think they're nothing if not intense.
The track hits with an unmatched ferocity where the guitars squeal and howl into the abyss of darkness that the band creates. The pace of the song is fast, it's weighted, and it's far from what you might be expecting. This is followed with the downbeat opening of "Dead Umbrella," before the drums start to kick and shake, and that speed ticks back up as guitars sound like broken glass or cats in heat on a balmy Summer night. The vocals have a harsh ring, so much so it's like getting beat upon the skull with a bottle that won't seem to break.
The fervent nature continues on "Roman Candle," and the acute and bleak sounds that the band creates together seep through your speakers like dripping blood from an uncauterized wound. If Lace is trying to re-invent what you think of what a post-punk band sounds like, they're doing a great job of it. In fact, it's not until "Tension" that the idea of them being a post-punk band even enters your head. The sadness to the music alone would be deafening, but the vocals offer any promise of prosperity while essentially stating, "no one loves you" at the same time.
After the band revisits their past Demo with a reworked version of "Poison Drum," it's the following song "On a Rung" that shows so much promise. Lace is in the here and now on this track, offering bleak visions and misinterpreted meetings. The song is definitely dystopian and murky, while the stride of the song is quick and without compromise. That embodies so much of this release, a lack of compromise of vision and aesthetic.
That harsh reality in sound continues on "Mapplethorpe (The Leper Song), where singer Joshua Bosarge sings from a reverberated distance while the band makes a sound that doesn't sound like a band trying to be like anyone else. Those careening guitars and sounds of helplessness leak through and create something that sounds like a plea for a future continuing the dark tone of the album.
While the band again returns to rework "Moral Trip" from the Demo, the track "Spectator" rings new and takes you further into the spaces of the mind that no one else gets to see. There's an immediacy to this track that can't go unnoticed while Lace steers the ship toward the cliffs in an effort to end it all. With "Paradise, Coming Down" there's no mistaking that sentiment of despair and darkness that the album offers up. The way in which the intensity of the drums match up with the sway of the bass and both guitars offer a twisted sound like metal clashing together in an automobile crash.
The harsh and distinct vocals help cap off an album full of dark days and lonely nights. The crisp and to the point time of song is enough to make you place the record on repeat again, while you don't dare hope for anything positive to enter your already dismal existence. This, is punk and post-punk reinvented for the better.
The entire album is an exercise in what punk and post-punk should sound like coming from a band who's ready to place their stamp on both. Produced by Houston's Jon Januhowski, Human Condition is one of the best albums to come from a city that's had punk in its blood for decades, while offering up a new version of it in the process. Not since I heard Out Of Step by Minor Threat, have I listened to a band who knew exactly who they were and didn't care if you got it or not. You can pre-order Human Condition from Funeral Party Records, or stream it in all places when it's released on April 13. Lace will perform in Houston on April 27 at Insomnia Gallery. The all ages show will be Free and have doors at 8 p.m. and will include sets from Narcons and Narrow Head. Lace will be on tour throughout the East coast for all of May.
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