Music Reviews

Trash Talk 119

(Odd Future) Buy it from Insound Rating - 6/10

Progression can be a tricky maneuver to pull off for a hardcore band, as finding the right balance between structured accessibility and primal punk chaos is much easier said than done, especially when you’re followed by a legion of fans who’d be satisfied if you never changed. It’s this progression, however, that the Sacramento hardcore act Trash Talk took on so naturally only a year ago. After building a reputation for years as one of the most uncompromising and devastating hardcore groups on the west coast, Trash Talk gradually started to distance themselves from the grind-punk of earlier releases in favor of songs with more defined riffs, tighter song structures, and recognizable hooks. Beginning with 2010’s Eyes & Nines, this approach reached its peak realization with last year’s excellent Awake EP, a five-track, eight minute onslaught that felt like the perfect link between classic and modern hardcore punk, and while their certainly have been some naysayers voicing their opinions all over YouTube, one would only need to see footage of the group playing live (let alone experience it in person) to know that they haven’t lost an ounce of intensity.

So when news broke out that the thrash punk warriors had buddied up with now infamous rap collective Odd Future and would release their latest album, 119, on their newly founded, Sony-distributed label, I wasn’t worried that they would lose their edge, in fact I was excited to see how the group would flesh out the sound they perfected on Awake for an explosive full length experience. In a sense, I wasn’t totally wrong in thinking this – Trash Talk are still far from a pop group, and the album features some highly destructive moments in its 22-minute span – but unfortunately, 119 features too many weak spots of lukewarm punk that suggest the group is beginning to slip away from the fully realized and perfectly balanced sound the group was just starting to master.

As if completely aware of the fact that 119’s major label bearings might cause some fans to believe that they won’t be getting a hardcore record this time around, Trash Talk come out tearing through flesh and searching for blood with some of the albums most abrasive yet well written tracks right at the forefront. Opener Eat The Cycle perfectly quantifies the best aspects of the group’s sound in a fully concentrated, two-minute blast, kicking off with light-speed riffs and vocalist Lee Spielman’s snarling vocals until descending into an ultra-punishing breakdown. The tracks that follow, including Exile On Broadway, My Rules, and Uncivil Disobedience, come closest to exemplifying the vicious yet infectious sound the group mastered on the Awake EP, with the shrapnel-laden pop of Exile in particular standing out as one of the albums most memorable yet crushing moments.

Though these tracks undoubtedly give 119 a running head start, the album quickly loses its breath due to a crippling mid-album lull. As even the aforementioned opening tracks suggested the focus that Trash Talk takes on their new album leans more towards constructing thick, pounding riffs rather than stampeding over their listeners in unbridled rage. This, unfortunately, leaves us with a number of songs, including Fuck Nostalgia, Apathy, and single F.E.B.N., which showcase the group at their most structured and calculated, yet feature mostly unmemorable riffs that never manage to make much of a fissure. This predicament also affects a few of the albums slow burners, as tracks like Reasons and the Odd Future-aided Blossom & Burn try their best to come off as brooding and filth ridden as possible but ultimately feel thin and labored when compared to previous attempts, like Eyes & Nine’s menacing piledriver Hash Wednesday. These songs, all trapped in the desert that is the middle of 119, do their best to resemble high intensity hardcore, but would unfortunately influence more standing at shows than moshing.

However, just when this mid-album drought suggests that it’s ok to let your guard down, Thanks, But No Thanks bolts through the pit and knocks you flat on your ass, launching the album towards its sweat-drenched finale. These final bursts of maniacal aggression call to mind the economic nature of songwriting Trash Talk employed early on in their career, with the four songs before albums pulverizing final track, Dogman, clocking in at a little more than three minutes while never finding a moment to slow down. While these last five tracks are certainly some of the most raw, exhilarating, and exciting moments to be found on 119, they still feel distanced from the well-balanced sound achieved by the group on their last release and only sporadically on this one . Instead, they more adequately recall the ultra-savage, grindcore inspired chaos of their earlier albums, which makes for some intense hardcore punk but struggles to present the more evolved aspects of the groups sound.

Though 119 certainly presents itself as a solid punk record for the majority of its run, what I find hard to understand is how Trash Talk struggle to reclaim the perfectly balanced approach to hardcore that they successfully harnessed barely a year ago on a five song EP. Though I had been hoping for a year now that the Awake EP was just a small taste of the glorious, aggressive power that was to come from Trash Talk, for now I can really only hope that their latest full length was merely a stumble along the way.