Downtown Boys: Cost of Living – album review

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Downtown Boys

Downtown Boys: Cost of Living (Sub Pop)
LP | CD | DL
Out now
9/10

Bilingual sax punks Downtown Boys tell us they’re here to “topple the white-cis-het hegemony and draft a new history”. Listening to their provocatively boisterous new album, Cost of Living, Cassie Fox wants to roll up her sleeves and give them a hand pushing.

The targets in Downtown Boys’ crosshairs are clear: “racism, queerphobia, capitalism, fascism, boredom, and all things people use to try to close our minds, eyes and hearts”. The tracks on Cost of Living use commanding sloganeering, driving grooves, and catchy sax riffs to cook up one of the most apposite records of the present-day.

This is the third album from the Providence, RI band, and the follow-up to their critically-acclaimed Full Communism from 2015. Released on Sub Pop, but with production by Fugazi/Rites of Spring’s Guy Picciotto, lending a Dischord sound – a touch of the Nation of Ullysses about it.

The effervescent opener, ‘A Wall’, has lyrics drawn from Assata Shakur’s poem “I believe in living“, and Sonic Youth style delivery. The song calls out Trump with a joyful resistance.

‘Promissory Note’ is an unapologetic bird-flip to the band’s censurers: “So what’s the matter, you don’t like what you see? / I can’t believe you’re even talking to me!”

‘Somos Chulas’ (‘We are cool’) is one of three songs on the album sung primarily in Spanish and it’s a banger.

‘Lips That Bite’ is my favourite track on the album, largely due to the rollicking sax instrumental, over some unexpected synth.

Downtown Boys are best served live. Victoria Ruiz is mesmerising in her performance, and the band’s energetic shows are joyful, entertaining and inspirational. True story: when they played in London in 2015, three friends in the audience were so inspired that they formed their own sax punk band on the spot – and my band GUTTFULL was born.

Downtown Boys are currently touring Europe with several UK dates coming up: catch them if you can.

11/10: Brighton, UK @ The Haunt

12/10: Leeds, UK @ Brudenell Social Club

13/10: Edinburgh, UK @ Sneaky Pete’s

14/10: Glasgow, UK @ Stereo

16/10: Dublin, Ireland @ The Workman’s Club

17/10: Liverpool, UK @ The Shipping Forecast

18/10: London, UK @ Dome Tufnell Park

19/10: Sheffield, UK @ Picture House Social Club

20/10: Manchester, UK @ Deaf Institute

21/10: Bristol, UK @ Simple Things Festival

22/10: Birmingham, UK @ All Years Leaving Festival

 

Find Downtown Boys on Facebook and Bandcamp

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Review by Cassie Fox. More writing by Cassie on Louder Than War can be found at her author’s archive. She tweets as @cassieefox and @loudwomenclub 

The Baby Seals: The Baby Seals – EP review

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The Baby SealsThe Baby Seals – The Baby Seals
DL 
7 April 2017

The self-titled debut from The Baby Seals is full on female empower pop. Cassie Fox reviews for Louder Than War. 

You can’t help but love The Baby Seals. An all woman trio – consisting two sisters and their bezzie – playing a genre they’ve invented themselves, ‘empower pop’.

The first time they played LOUD WOMEN Club, back in December 2016, several members of the audience were debating forming a record label right there on the spot in order to sign them. Now it seems that these smart Seals have gone and done exactly that for themselves, releasing their eponymous debut EP under their own steam. The spirit is DIY punk, but the sound is neatly polished.

The songs are strong and dancey and perfectly executed, and the biting lyrics genuinely hilarious. But these funny women are not laughing at themselves: they’re inviting us to join them in laughing at the ridiculous policing of women’s bodies.

Opener My Labia’s Lopsided, But I Don’t Mind spells out their agenda in mile high neon lights: bollocks to the patriarchy, and we’re going to have an awesome time while we’re at it. It’s a storming song and catchy as hell – big guitar licks over a dead funky rhythm, and proper choral vocal harmonies – and that’s before you even get to the lyrics: “If you go downtown don’t you dare close your eyes / If you go downtown don’t dare be motherfucking surprised / My la-la-la-la-la-la-la-labia’s lopsided but I don’t mind…”

It’s a crying shame that this song is unlikely to ever get played on mainstream radio – teenagers and young women need this message of sex-positive body confidence now more than ever.

And that message of loving your own body, in all its weird and wonderful variations, continues in Nipple Hair – a song which sounds very much like early Bangles, but with less hairspray and a lot less hair removal. It’s a classic power pop ballad, with a middle eight I wish I’d written: “Some aeriole are big and veiny / Some look like puppy dog’s noses / Some look like they’ve been dipped in gravy”

Period Drama has a similarly ’80s-soft rock feel – more reverb-y harmonies over big guitar. A song that will strike a chord with any uterus-owner who’s ever been caught out by Aunt Flo’s arrival and had to improvise with a jumper tied round your waist to hide the stains. (Yep, that’s pretty much all of us then.)

Guuurrrrl is another super-catchy anthem with the simple message ‘You – yeah you! – can be what you want to’. It’s the kind of song to outro an indie highschool romcom movie, with the cheerleaders chucking their pompoms out the window of the car as they drive off towards Vegas with a trunk full of guns and quarterbacks. Oh how I’d love to see that movie.

The Baby Seals played LOUD WOMEN Club again last week, on International Women’s Day, and I had such fun dancing to Yawn Porn, down the front with loads of great babes around me yelling along to “He’s going to cum on her FACE!” It was like the best woke hen party ever. They closed the set with EP closer, It’s Not About The Money Honey, a bluesy bass-rolling chant calling for equal pay.

These talented women aren’t so much smashing the patriarchy as laughing in its face. I can’t wait to see what The Baby Seals come up with next.

~

The Baby Seals’ self-titled EP is available to pre-order now from https://thebabyseals.bandcamp.com/releases
Catch them live at one of their release party gigs: 4 April Brighton Prince Albert , 5 April Shacklewell Arms London.

Find them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

All words by Cassie Fox. You can read more from Cassie in her author profile on LTW here.