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January 6, 2008

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The shelf life of a hardcore band is normally only a few years, with seldom more than a single record and countless miles on their van to show for it. This short period of existence is partly to blame for the lack of innovation in hardcore. Almost every band’s early material sucks, because as musicians you’re still getting used to each other, so if your band only lasts a few 7”s you never have time to move past your early roots and evolve.

Most of the time it’s this evolution that separates good hardcore bands and great hardcore bands. There have always been exceptions (Scrapes and Heart Attacks RIP), but when you look for true genre luminaries, its almost always the bands who have had time to grow that break new ground. Over the course of their previous two full lengths Paint it Black have grown from the forty second brutal punk songs of CVA to a more melodic yet still equally fast and heavy sound on Paradise. As powerful as those records were they were still, at their core, simply hardcore records.

So now I sit here with Paint it Black’s third album before me, and I’m at a loss for words as to how to describe it. On face value it’s still a hardcore record. The songs are mostly short and fast as hell, and front man Dan Yemin’s shout has never been gruffer or more pissed off. And yet, New Lexicon is a beautiful record. The musical backdrop for Yemin’s rants is a strangely varied mix of melodic punk, old school emo and crushing speed. This is the first time a Paint it Black record has featured a song one could even consider something he held back from his band mates in Lifetime. And thank god for it.

Hardcore bands are often so obsessed with getting faster and heavier than anyone else that they neglect writing songs that are worth listening to. New Lexicon lives up to its name by laying down fifteen definitions of what hardcore can be and then turning them on their ear. Who’s to say that a hardcore song can’t have a sung line in the middle of a chorus without succumbing to emo cliché? Or that you can’t cut out all of the instruments except the drums and focus on just a simple bass drum/crash cymbal beat? Or let one of the leading producers in indie hip hop (Oktopus) add samples, overdubs and general madness to the end of tracks?

Oktopus’ additions come out of left field at first, appearing in the form of droning drum and bass pieces constructed from samples of songs from the record and lulling you into a different listening space before ending and throwing you back in the melodic maelstrom of the albums actual songs. And they are the perfect example of hardcore evolving. It would be easy for these parts to stand out, and not fit in with the rest of the record. Yet somehow, they fit in perfectly, even in the presence of the albums traditional hardcore moments. New Lexicon throws out hardcore’s definitions and rules and uses the freedom that separation provides to recreate the genre from the ground up. A “sermon for the vermin” maybe, but a message and delivery that the genre as be sorely needing. Behold the first absolutely necessary listen of 2008. This album is perfect.

10 out of 10
RIYL: Lifetime, Modern Life is War, Ignite or Naked Raygun.

Mammoth Press

John-Michael Bond