Culture Abuse - Peach (Cover Artwork)

Culture Abuse

Peach (2016)

6131 Records

While their efforts are often masked in a haze of noise and fuzz, San Francisco’s Culture Abuse has always been a rock and roll band above all else and their debut LP Peach is their tightest, most focused collection to date. Despite pulling from all elements of indie, hardcore, grunge and blues, make no mistake -Peach is San Francisco punk to the core.

Album opener “Chinatown” kicks into some of the most upbeat, light-hearted musical territory Culture Abuse has delved into, with an insanely catchy chorus “Gotta, gotta, gotta live they way you wanna. Gotta, gotta, gotta be the way you gotta. Gotta, gotta, gotta love just who you wanna.” It may read cheesy, but when it’s pinned between verses spelling the horrors committed on their own street and callousness of those committing them, its levity radiates with defiance.

The one-two punch of “Rainy Days” and “Don’t Worry” highlight the band’s love of 90’s revival with guitar leads that vibrate in psychedelic chorus effects and abrasive chord changes. Dave Kelling’s shoegazey vocals flow in and out of the tracks like Bay Area fog- especially on the latter’s extremely groovy verses that let him sink his teeth into every lyric.

But Peach isn’t a 90’s record and despite the fuzzy breakdowns and gratuitous feedback, you get the feeling these songs were penned by someone who grew up wearing a Fat Wreck Chords T-shirt and Chuck Taylors to school. The song “Peace on Earth” takes a brutal reflection on friends who have passed, aging parents, and the fragility of Kelling’s own body and mind- it also happens to be the catchiest song on the record, evoking the best moments of Cuban Ballerina-era Dead to Me.

With its mid-tempo blues progressions and harmonica solo, “Yuckies” doesn’t sound out of place at this point because Kelling has proven he is able to balance light-hearted song structure with honest vulnerability, making the words “I think I hate you, but I feel so guilty” cut ten times deeper.

San Francisco is a tough place for artists and it’s only getting tougher. The economic prosperity that has reinvigorated the beautiful city has also put pressure on underground musicians, while making it easier to ignore the fact that the atrocities that currently plague our nation are still alive and well in those streets.

If Peach stands for anything, it is a bold testament to the marginalized classes who have been paved over and pushed out in the name of economic progress. And in a nation that consumes artistic and commercial identities with the blind desperation of an addict seeking to fill the crushing void left by a century of malignant capitalism, it is triumphant strike from band that is unafraid to live up to their name.