Self Defense Family - I'm Going Through Some Shit [7-inch] (Cover Artwork)

Self Defense Family

I'm Going Through Some Shit [7-inch] (2011)

Deathwish Inc

Whether by choice or fate, Cohoes, NY's Self Defense Family are a band that defy classification. Once firmly rooted in an early Dischord Records sound, the band has branched off in recent years, running the spectrum from indie to hardcore and everything in between–sometimes all at once. While this approach can be interesting to the open-minded listener, and has to be hella amusing for the band's 15+ members, it can sometimes be frustrating for poor rubes like me who feel inclined to describe this stuff to other people.

Take for example their most recent Deathwish seven-inch, I'm Going Through Some Shit. Although recorded in Jamaica as part of the band's Island 7" Series, it sounds more inspired by a Persian opium den than a place with sandy beaches and–erm–fine local herbs. The band has never sounded heavier–and not heavy in a hardcore sense, but atmospherically heavy. Everything has been downtuned and downtempo-ed; the guitars are trebly and fuzzed-out, incorporating a lot of tense, Eastern-sounding chord progressions into their usual Dischord-influenced twang. The lyrical subject matter is heavier, too, swapping relationship commentary and songs about being broke for perhaps the most introspective, soul-searching stuff vocalist Patrick Kindlon has ever written.

The lead track, "I'm Going Through Some Shit" is arguably the band's best work to date. Centred around a heavily distorted riff that sounds like a post-hardcore take on reggae, the song pushes for a very buzzed-out, Woodstock-esque intensity, while Kindlon tears through the vocals with all the soul (albeit, maybe not the pipes) of a 90-year-old blues singer. The song is essentially one big experimental buildup to a decidedly punk climax, alleviating the tension of the guitar interplay and quelling any anxiety the listener may have had. This melodic uptempo break wraps the song up nicely and leaves you feeling impressed without being overwhelmed.

Side B, "All Fruit Is Ripe" may not hit as hard as the first track, but it's still impressive on its own merits. More akin to earlier, mid-tempo SDF work like "Eric Hall", but keeping with the twangy, heavily distorted guitar tones and even adding some more Eastern-influenced chord progressions, the song is a nice, fresh complement to the heavier "I'm Going Through Some Shit". The band have a tendency to use the B side of their singles to write some weird filler–it's nice to see they actually tried on this one.

On this release, Self Defense Family have once again broken their own mould, proving that you don't need to rely on any crutches to be good or successful. This band is doing it right, and I expect more fantastic music from them in the future. Now, if they could only pick a goddamn name...