For a while it looked like there was no reason to even listen to punk anymore. Cookie-cutter pop bands diluted airwaves and everyone could relax with an SUV, mocha latte and episode of Survivor or whatever. When this band formed just before the millenium, they sang about broken hearts, friends, drinking and the occasional environmental problem. Several years after their first effort, they return with a revamped sound, fuelled as much by drunken carelessness as it is by left-wing activism.
The world is different now. After a stolen presidential election, a war, terrorist attacks, and an apparent American collapse, punk has regained its position as a valuable tool for dissent. Once again angry and dangerous, a slew of bands, upstarts and veterans alike, are enthusiastically revolting against establishment and their work is as vital as that of early punk rock bands like Reagan Youth and The Clash. The Sainte Catherines are a part of this revolution, coupling a strong sociopolitical message with an incendiary sound.
This band's music has more is more urgent now, best shown on "D Is The Key To Open Heart Surgery" and its cries of "If you jump, I will jump" and "Kill the messiah, bring me his flowers". Like the rest of North America, this band has endured the struggles of 9/11, the War in Iraq and Dubya's upside-down foreign policy and changes in their message are evident. You can hear it on "Fuck Me With a Bag Over My Head", when the vocalist eloquently articulates with gravelly barks of pain "Your company is a killing machine. Your employees are fucking sick... I'll put my fist up in the air. Let's overcome! 'This machine kills fascists' Well, their machine is killing us all. Break the mold, untie your neck, cover your eyes, say your prayers." More of the same pops up on "Faux-Marxist Anarcho-Punks Anthem", with lines like "Factories will burn and I'll be there to see it all go down. Do you understand? Money isn't worth shit...Wealth is nothing, power is bullshit. We're gonna fight. We'll set fires. We're gonna die."
Punk rock needs this record right now. "I Can't Have Sex All The Time" - with lyrics as desperate as "Get me out of Wal Mart town, a black train to optimist city" - belongs right before NOFX's "Franco Un-American" on your "Anti-establishment Punk Rock For the Summer of 2003" mixtape. The singer takes aim at the corruption of materialism ("Broken Art For Expensive Hearts"), and commercial pre-teen "punk" ("No Pads, No Helmets...Just A Bunch of Dicks") while their freight train rhythm section combined with their - count 'em - three guitarists provide a backdrop of sonic perfection. The melodies and numerous guitar parts give this band a serious advantage. On "Expensive Cars Chroming All-Star Team," the guitars move from aggressive, palm-muted power chords to beautiful, sweeping hang-glider moments in seconds and on the aforementioned "D Is The Key..." they play as if the world is about to end. The album closes with a bittersweet love-letter to their hometown of Montreal, but it could apply to any modern, urban city. It seems like all the ills of society are exposed on this album.
I don't think this band even realizes how good they are yet. I'll be daring enough to say that this might make the top five best punk albums of the year, along with the upcoming Lawrence Arms and Strike Anywhere records (both of whom the Sainte Catherines have toured with). Flaws are few and far between and their lack of self-consciousness will win them many fans and enemies. But at the end of the day, because they have the courage to stand up for their beliefs, this record will remain vital. So instead of hearing the record, go bitch about reviews while relaxing with an SUV, mocha latte and episode of Survivor or whatever. But remember that "if we all stop, who's gonna build their castles?"
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