Album Review: The Decline – Resister

Have you ever found yourself violently thrashing around your bedroom, shaking your limbs in a vaguely rhythmic fashion as you toss your hair into a bird’s nest all to the tune of some raw angsty voices, a killer drum beat, and some serious shredding?

If you answered no to the question above, you probably have never received a noise complaint from a neighbor. Congratulations. But you’re also seriously missing out. And if you’re looking to forge the perfect mid-afternoon one-person pit, you might as well start with Australian punk band The Decline’s latest release Resister.

Punk rock has always been a staple in my musical diet, a bit of Dead Kennedys, Sex Pistols, and Bikini Kill washed down with pop-heavy tracks from the slightly more bubble-gum melodies of Blink-182 and Green Day. The Decline nestles nicely into the genre, with sharp-witted, rapid-fire lyrics and aggressive, near-frenzied instrumentation.

In checking out the discography of The Decline, there’s an oddly nostalgic feel to their style. It’s nineties skate punk for a new era, clearly inspired by (but certainly not a mere mimicry) of acts like NOFX, Descendents, and The Offspring with a touch of Bad Religion for good measure. The Perth musicians released Resister, their third album with Pee Records, an independent punk and hardcore label based in Adelaide, Australia, on June 12th, 2015. (Bird Attack and Cargo Records handled the United States and European releases, respectively.)

The album roars to life right off the bat with the first track, New Again, an appropriately title anthem for the band’s recharged sound following a slight change-up in musicians. A relentless drum beat picks up in between guitar licks, framing the vocals. Every so often, the guitar repeats a little surf pop-esque refrain, a melodic reminder of the Southern Californian sound that punctuates each track. Its abrupt ending following a furious final drumbeat terrifically segues into the next song on the album, a clever and thought-out instrumental choice often lost in our generation of dragged-on fade-outs.

On the album’s sixth track, You Call This a Holiday?, it can be easy to assume this is another bait-and-switch pop punk jam where a mellow, quiet introductory phrase that lasts about twenty to thirty seconds suddenly roars into shouting and screeching guitars. But don’t be fooled. These down-under lads are too clever to allow the obvious. Over two minutes into the track, you’re lulled into a false sense of security by its soft almost ballad-like quality. You’ll say to yourself, “Hm, I suppose they took a break in the middle of the record for a change to something lighter,” and you’ll be wrong. Because, after an agonizing will-they-or-won’t-they build, the song shifts breathlessly into a barrage of clamorous vocals and nearly cacophonic instrumentation, a reminder that punk, while rarely subtle, can still be unexpected.

As a whole, the album can feel slightly repetitive. A common critique of punk rock is that “all the songs sound the same,” (for example, see the continuous calling-out of the Ramones) and The Decline may be likely to hear similar comments as they progress in their career. But anyone who claims the record is monotonous or formulaic is simply not listening hard enough. Though the songs seem mostly centric around typical musical fodder, like the industry itself, personal relationships, moving on, and the angsty bittersweet ache of loss, love, and growing up, there are tracks nestled in the listing that are delivered with such a sharply-witted silver tongue, like the penultimate Underworld Tour, which details, well, a tour through the depths of hell. (Sample Lyrics: Our first time in the underworld and I’ll never forget, / All the sorry souls and all the bad people we met. / Fred Phelps drives the tour bus, / Saddam does our soundchecks, / and Joseph Stalin is in charge of sorting our rider.) A punk band singing about hell seem predictable? Not a shot. There’s a self-awareness there, a cognizance reminiscent of old-school punk.

Resister is a fine addition to the skate punk canon, a taste of California in the nineteen-nineties straight from the mouths of a bunch of twenty-first-century Aussies.

Goes Well with a Side Of: Frenzal Bomb, Teenage Bottlerocket, Pennywise, and speakers that won’t blow out when you turn the dial all the way up.

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