No Redeeming Social Value - Wasted For Life (Cover Artwork)

No Redeeming Social Value

Wasted For Life (2020)

Dead City Records

“1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4!”. From the very first seconds of NYHC stalwart’s No Redeeming Social Value’s new record Wasted For Life, you know what’s ahead. Hard-hitting old school hardcore, as it was in the beginning. With no intended disrespect to the new breed, you won’t find any infusions of black metal or synth programmed break beats here. Just the type of raging singalong anthems that NRSV has been churning out for over 30 years.

That being said, NRSV have always managed to stand apart from, if not above, their peers such as Sick of It All and Madball. Their live shows are where their truest identity takes shape. It’s not every hardcore band that’ll wear gold sequined booty shorts and shoot confetti cannons into the crowd. But NRSV? “Fuck it, let’s party.”

Not that NRSV is just a bunch of partying knuckleheads. Sure, they’ll still do a drinking anthem like “Brew Crew”, or the faux-country, mostly spoken word “I’m Gonna Puke”, which naturally is on the inevitable indulgence aftermath. But they'll also pour just as much passion into looking through the other side, such as on “Separation Anxiety”, an addiction confessional as raw and as true as you’re likely to find.

For a band that has never stopped playing shows since it’s inception in 1988, their recorded output has been sparse. As I said, NRSV is best experienced live. And that could be why this album sounds so damn good. Contextually speaking, the writing and recording process is still new here. There’s still opportunity to grow and conceptualize. Nothing drags here. There’s no sense of redundancy. Production does exactly what it should: keeps you interested without getting in the way. These are 10 bangers that will get in your head, blow your speakers, and piss off your mom. And if we ever have live shows again, NRSV are going to have a blast playing these songs.

The title cut is a pit worthy storm on holding your own life close to chest, not allowing fleeting things like money or power take it over. Opening track “Don’t Tell Me” comes across similarly, but even faster and more aggressively. Exceptionally fitting the NRSV mould is “Punk Rock Wedding Song”, a snarky, cynical take on that big day that everyone looks forward to, but end up mostly unable to remember much of.

The strongest of the set is “Shatterproof”. Dual vocals each play a half of a mind in meltdown, arguing with itself. The devil on one side lays out all of the terrible hopelessness of a world self destructing, while the protagonist pushes back with all of the strength and pride he can muster, refusing to relent in the endless fight to stay positive. It’s not only the best song on Wasted For Life, it’s one of the best of NRSV’s career.

No Redeeming Social Value is brash, immature, and funny. But they’re also honest, proficient, and sound seamless at a stage in their life when many of their contemporaries are phoning it in.