The Brokedowns - Species Bender (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Brokedowns

Species Bender (2010)

Red Scare Industries

It has become a common sight in light of the recent economic recession in America: buildings that used to be arcades, youth centers, maybe even homeless shelters boarded up, some even destroyed to make way for new big box outlets or fancy multilevel parking lots. Take any of these well-meaning establishments that is near the end of its life, fill it to the brim with every Midwestern punk/pop-punk (or whatever) album you can get (I mean floor to ceiling with CDs, vinyl, tapes, all of it), and implode the shit out of that building. Take whatever metal you can salvage from the rubble and melt it down into a disc shape. On that disc you would, inevitably, have the Brokedowns' newest full-length, Species Bender.

It's easy to listen to this album and do the easy "RIYL: Dillinger Four, the Arrivals, Air Supply" and too often that's exactly the disservice the Brokedowns have suffered. Upon closer inspection, one notices the superb balance of ferocity and desperation on Species Bender make it stand out from its contemporaries. The band minces no words and offers no reconciliation with foes, as is demonstrated in the opener "Wizard Symptoms" with lyrics like, "My head is pruned from being up my ass. / Is magic still magic if it all can be so easily explained?" The Brokedowns do a great job over the 13 tracks in showing that this anger doesn't just manifest because it's what's expected of youth or punks, but much rather from repeated life experiences, letdowns and frustrations. This desperation is probably no clearer than in the closer "Debt Sounds" with the unforgettable shout of, "It's not giving up, because giving up at least has an end."

Species Bender is a Midwest punk thrasher, ripping through 13 tracks in just over 26 minutes. Its humor is present throughout but always dark and pointed and never cheap or pandering. This isn't an album with tracks about your buddy's mom or how rad it was to get drunk and streak down the campus quad. This is an album that uses humor, melody and just great songwriting to slip in a message that may be too damn dark and bleak to otherwise take in. But, if you pay attention, it's a message that is definitely worth hearing and one that makes Species Bender the kind of album that you listen to long after you've stopped caring what bands the Brokedowns sound like or get compared to.