Lighten Up – [Album]

Monday, 01 March 2010

It's a rare occurrence that a brand new band appears on the scene and bearing all of the earmarks of direct lineage to the first wave of hardcore bands. Make no mistake, lots of bands try to pantomime the movements of groups like Black Flag, Minor Threat and Descendents, but few if any of them ever really come close to the raw adrenaline those bands were capable of provoking in listeners.

'Few if any' does not mean 'none' though.

From the opening explosion of “Invisible Checks,” Philadelphia-based Absolutely Not recalls every ounce of the passion and aggression that marked the first wave of SoCal hardcore without any of the flaws that would come to be associated with the genre later. With unrelenting buzzsaw guitars, unforgiving drum assaults and a whole lot of frustration to work off, Lighten Up absolutely demolishes the diminished returns that emo and screamo tried to play off as hardcore and burns the whole mess down to the basic essentials that the music started with. It's not complicated and not over-adorned, just enough needs-first power to roll over anything in its path.

That does not mean Absolutely Not is another enactment of canny and calculated revivalist bullshit though; it's purer than that. While bands like Dillinger Escape Plan, Vanna, Gallows and Every Time I Die  entertain the possibility of playing hardcore music as they build their own aggression levels to a breaking point before just bursting with metallic grit, Lighten Up conveys potent anger and visceral observation without aurally beheading listeners at some point with heavy metal axes. That focus on the point rather than the dramatic trappings of emotional implication instantly sets pulses racing and pushes adrenaline up because there is no callow breaking point or shift – it just plows through irresistibly.

While that adrenaline rush does get sustained through each of the seventeen minutes (twelve songs) that make up the run-time of Absolutely Not, that doesn't also imply that Lighten Up is simply a group of hardcore caricatures. More melodic tracks like “Personality Implants,” “I Don't Think So, Tim,” “Life On Earth” and “Boys II Wolves” cut through the standard-issue hardcore of “Dolphins Are Sharks With A Good Publicist,” “Negative Equity” and more to offer a balance and mix that doesn't dilute the force of the harder tracks so much as offer a little contrast.

It sounds like a sales pitch to say it but, while hardcore has been employed in various capacities over the years since the first wave crested, it has never really been given an honest straight shot since then. Fashionable amounts of metal or pop or whatever post- is supposed to mean (copious amounts of black hair dye maybe) have always ended up being the catalyst that reignites the music thus also tainting it. Lighten Up doesn't bother with any of that on Absolutely Not; for the first time in ages, someone is playing hardcore faithfully instead of as a novelty. For those that have been looking on and laughing at the parade of craven contenders in the intervening years since hardcore bottomed out the first time, it'll be refreshing to hear the real thing again.



Absolutely Not is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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