dead-fucking-serious

DFS at Take 92

 

It’s 10:15 PM on a rainy night in the Pacific NW. I’m driving south on I-5 just north of Vancouver, WA, barely able to keep my windshield clear between the downpour and the absurd residual tire fling of the vehicles in front of and around me. “Deathbed”, a sort of turn-of-the-century Pennywise meets Trash Talk track from the upcoming DFS album is playing as loud as I can handle. I’m feeling somewhere between a panic attack and the final act of Mad Max: Fury Road.

I’m hard pressed to think of a better metaphor for Squalor.

Many years back, I read a review somewhere of At The Drive-In’s In/Casino/Out, wherein the author explained their hierarchical priorities as far as rating albums and bands on “how pissed they are”. He made clear that ATDI, as opposed to, per their example, Metallica, were actually pissed. Basically, according to this person, Metallica sounds pissed – ATDI are pissed. The call-to-action therein was to listen for real anger, feeling and meaning, not just to the aesthetic.

That review has stuck with me over the years and probably singularly influenced how I listen to music as an overall more than any one thing I’ve read, heard or been told. “Pissed” has nothing to do with the sound and everything to do with the humanity behind it. There’s obviously no science to quantifying anger, but genuine “pissed” isn’t tough to pick out once you’ve heard what it sounds like. Shit, most of the early Bright Eyes stuff is more pissed than half the ’90s Fat or Epitaph catalogs.

American punk and hardcore has a long history of being pissed, but has spent the last 17-20 years (depending on who you ask) divided in something of a state of co-opted anger. There are obvious exceptions and that’s by no means a blanket indictment of an entire genre, but the “pissed” aspect has seen some time as a gimmick, for sure. I’m all for advancing instrumental intricacies, screaming your lil’ heart out and exploring melody or anti-melody or how hard a china cymbal can get hit on a breakdown, but don’t try to convince me you’re pissed. I can figure that part out for myself.

DFS are pissed in the truest sense of the word.

 

 

The brainchild of Sammy Warm Hands, possibly Oregon’s most prolific, multi-faceted, output-oriented, least-apologetic music production machine, DFS is the real deal. No bullshit, no filler, all heart, and they are about to release maybe the most needed album to round out what has been a real motherfucker of a couple months. The amalgam of feelings surrounding Squalor isn’t small in magnitude; while I don’t subscribe to the idea of providence or fate, the coincidence that DFS happened to finish this album and send it to me the day after the Presidential election carries more weight than perhaps it would under quote normal unquote circumstances.

I’m not of the ilk that subscribes to this idea that who’s in whatever elected office dictates the quality of certain genres of music. Kinda the opposite. What I do subscribe to is this album came for me at a moment when I was able to appreciate it more than usual. If you need an election result to write valid, pissed off music, you’re doing it wrong.

This type of punk-tinged hardcore has a long history of being really up its own ass. Typical messages aren’t without merit most of the time; after all, hardcore was a reaction to poverty, racism, police brutality and the Reagan administration. Unfortunately, more often than not this resulted in a very closed off, exclusive mindset that became a longtime self-secluded rally cry before the typical suburban appropriating. Hardcore, for better or worse, has rarely been a welcoming place in the last couple decades, with most feeling as though they have to pass a test of acceptable viewpoints, tastes and attire preferences to join the club that would just as happily boot them the second they no longer align in those 3 categories.

It feels like DFS aim to change that.

 

 

dfs-squalor-cover-art

If Winston Smith is down to do the art for your album cover, you know there’s something solid there

I’m not pulling this out of nowhere; Sam, in his fantastic book chronicling the prior 10 years of work coming out of his studio, leaves no doubt in the matter. His recollection of the time when DFS initially called it quits 10 years ago is, frankly, heartbreaking… because I remember it the same way. At that point, very few in the much-diluted hardcore “community” cared about what hardcore came from or stood for. In exchange, emphasis was put on appearing tough, default soapbox moments of little-to-no substance and a general lack of any resemblance to even 5 years before. No one wanted to see actual hardcore bands; they wanted something selfie-worthy. Hardcore was as much of a casualty of social media and connectivity as any other genre. When you’re unable to make an actual impact, it’s only fitting to backburner one project and go for something more promising in that department.

DFS is 3 growed-up dudes who’ve seen a lot. They’ve watched their scene go through more transformations than anyone really wants to admit. They’ve kept their faith and, seemingly magically, brought the band back to life like they knew it was going to be necessary. They’ve all written and played music for double digits of years (some clocking in at damn near two decades) and walked away from certain scenes multiple times because it had to get worse before it got better. There’s just something special in how knowingly approached Squalor is.

There hasn’t been a better time for Dead Fucking Serious to return than now. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but shit in general is fucked up… regardless of where you stand. It always has been, but at present it sometimes feels like a civil or world war is going to break out at any time. If you think things are great and are only going to get better… well, you’re probably not reading this. I don’t foresee it, much like certain music scenes, getting less fucked up before it gets far worse, and we need all the legitimately pissed off music we can get… if only to remember we’re not the only ones who want to see things better than they are.

Aesthetically, all that needs to be said about Squalor is this:

It’s fast.
It rips.
It doesn’t waste a second.
It’s mixed appropriately.
It’s calculated.
It’s screamy yet entirely intelligible.
It’s lyrically dense as fuck.
It’s over before you realize what happened.
It’s exactly what it should be.

But that’s all far less interesting than the “why”.

Squalor exists because it has to.

It has to because these guys know their strengths, forum and how to do it right. It has to because this is what’s needed. It has to because of the human condition. It has to because there’s a palpable sense of responsibility behind each song, as though it didn’t have a choice about being written. It had to because DFS pack more substance into 20 furious minutes than most bands of similar ilk do in 3 records. It had to because 2017 had to start off with an album that can be it’s anthem, setting the tone and bar for what needs to come next.

Who knew a trio of thirtysomethings from Eugene, OR would end up writing the next in a select lineage of works that ended up more needed than anyone, even them, could have anticipated? That’s how you know it’s pissed: it can’t possibly not be.

Squalor is available on Jan. 13 from Take 92 and Crushkill Recordings. The digital album, as is the Take 92 way, will be pay-what-you-want.

Until then, have a listen or several courtesy of DFS and Sound Convictions.

 

Dead Fucking Serious will be on tour with Streetlight Cardiacs Jan. 14-22.

1/14 – Portland, OR – The Watertrough at 10 PM

1/15 – Eugene, OR – The Boreal

1/16 – Olympia, WA – O’Malleys

1/20 – Medford, OR – King Wah’s Bamboo Room

1/21 – TBA

1/22 – Berkeley, CA – 924 Gilman St.