Terminal Consumption is a monthly reviews column focused on the shadowy margins of punk and hardcore.
G.L.O.S.S. – Trans Day of Revenge EP [Total Negativity/Nervous Nelly]
To dub G.L.O.S.S. an urgent and necessary band — as an inordinate amount of writers, including this one, tend to do — reflects the fact that the Olympia hardcore outfit’s intended audience, trans women, are an embattled class, stalked by discrimination and violence. This is the stark, inalienable context of the group’s second EP, Trans Day of Revenge. As its opening salvo reckons, in no uncertain terms: “When peace is just another word for death / It’s our turn to give violence a chance.”
The record skewers reformist politics. It lays slain Black trans women at the feet of mainstream media and the Human Rights Campaign. The bulk of the five-song release — which appeared online shortly after the Orlando massacre — suggests supplanting courts, cops, and incremental activism with vigilante justice. Which involves an arsenal: boots, bricks, crews, masks, and “nine rounds plus one in the chamber.” With the frenetic, muscular hardcore itself, G.L.O.S.S. also sounds armed with an indomitable will to live.
Girls Living Outside Society’s Shit formed in Olympia, Washington and released a five-song demo, which later appeared on vinyl, last January. There’s “Masculine Artifice,” which decries how trans women are popularly depicted as science projects; and “Outcast Stomp,” a knuckle-dragging, mid-tempo bout that celebrates the “outcasts, rejects, girls, and the queers” and, in concert, beckons them to the pit. The punk scene, though not the foremost subject of the songs, recurs in the lyrics as a place where patriarchal hegemony just assumes a spikier form, a mutant power structure, if you will.
The eponymous opening track, “G.L.O.S.S. (We’re From the Future),” remains especially indelible. It begins with caustic feedback and vocalist Sadie Switchblade’s typically torrential outpour, which warrants quoting at length: “They told us we were girls / How we talk, dress, look, and cry / They told us we were girls / So we claimed our female lives / Now they tell us we aren’t girls / Our femininity doesn’t fit / We’re fucking future girls living outside society’s shit.”
It’s a jarring passage not least because of its optimism. Switchblade situates different stations of ignorance in the past and present and then discards the lot of it, seizing and defining the historical vanguard instead. The future, the song goes, is henceforth. And it belongs to “faggots and femmes … not just any outcasts.”
Trans Day of Revenge is more narrowly focused on retaliation and self-preservation. For transgender people, it suggests, there’s little difference between the two. All of the combative imagery — the scrappily armed mob, which begins to seem like the band itself — is familiar to punk and hardcore. Recall neutron bombs as black humor; pictures of piles of corpses as war crime protest; unthinking, macho militarism as unity, and so on. (Lately it’s all about the artisanal dagger-earring distros.) But the violence on Trans Day of Revenge is distinguished by the specificity of the band’s position.
The potency of hardcore lyricism lies in precision and economy. It’s often enough to express very little, so long as its expressed clearly; the music’s emphatic bludgeoning instills kernels of lucidity with outsized resonance. G.L.O.S.S. lyrics flourish within that formal imperative. They’re so unambiguous and comprehensive that — though this journalist is reluctant to admit it — the band’s disinterest in interviews is understandable.
At first, the media wariness is a bit vexing. Isn’t G.L.O.S.S. exactly the sort of band that might wish to exploit the press to reach its intended audience? But that assumes that G.L.O.S.S. isn’t naturally viral, through word-of-mouth, exhaustive touring, and an online ecosystem keen to amplify instances of queer representation in historically homogenous music scenes. And it ignores how G.L.O.S.S., in songs such as “Trans Day of Revenge,” views the media as not only unhelpful but also harmful, coconspirator of the “yuppie gays [who] threw us under the bus.”
And therein lies another aspect of the band’s urgency and necessity: G.L.O.S.S. defies attempts to translate or transform its message, crystalline in its fury to a rare degree. Take any one line: “Battery and abuse will be met with total violence.” Any questions?
Bib — great band name. On the Omaha, Nebraska hardcore group’s wily demo, recently rereleased on vinyl, Bib brings to mind the sopping, squelched vocals of Gag. That’s to say Bib brings to mind sputtered spittle and temper tantrums, lousy table manners and bratty babble. Not just figuratively — this record actually includes the sounds of crying babies. Performative throat clearing typifies sickly punk at large, but few bands embrace the apparent fetal regression fantasy lingering latent in contemporary hardcore with quite the same honesty as the band called Bib.
Sievehead — Buried Beneath EP [Static Shock]
“Chains,” the second song on Sheffield, England post-punk group Sievehead’s Buried Beneath EP, features a griping passage at about the 25-second mark. A pulsing kick and volleys of toms underpin a twinkling guitar melody while the vocalist heaves, “All skin, all skin and bones.” The song goes on, of course. Nervy, lean riffs surge beneath plaintive choruses. Leads snake across batteries of snare drum. But the bulk of the song unpacks a mood, tousled and distraught, that’s set in an early instant.
V/A — Typical Girls LP [Emotional Response]
A compilation of contemporary punk and indie-pop groups led by women on three different continents, Typical Girls’ highlights include Earth Girls’ spritely and concise “Oland,” Nots’ composed and quietly forbidding “Reactor,” and Rakta’s smoldering closer, “Caverna.” But the strongest regional focus is England. Frau’s demo cut “Safety Instructions” is barely coherent: all passion, no technique. Primetime’s “Dumbhead,” a subversion of the Ginny Arnell original, is slightly more legible. And Shopping’s previously released “Get Going” follows through similar post-punk inclinations to their zipped-up conclusion. None of which is a qualitative comparison. They’re all glorious. But to hear them in succession is to wonder how much practice is too much. If any punks should be proverbially upped, it’s the unlearned.
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