A turbulent political climate will always cause the downtrodden to speak up, whether it be the otherwise voiceless, the oppressed, or the punk bands. 2015’s ‘Full Communist’ saw Providence punk outlet Downtown Boys break through, gaining attention thanks to their sharp lyrics that condemned police brutality and white supremacy, Victoria Ruiz’ loud, pissed-off vocals, and a genuine feeling of defiance.
A lot of problems were addressed on ‘Full Communist’ that haven’t really been improved on in the two years between then and ‘Cost of Living’. And so, it’s very noticeable that this new album has an even greater sense of urgency than the previous. Though perhaps the most noticeable difference is the fuller production style this time around, the kind of thing that might put a lot of punk purists off, but the band still manages to sound as gritty and energetic as ever. If anything, it makes hard-hitters like ‘Lips That Bite’ sound that bit more complete, with Ruiz’ voice filling the track a lot more, and with almighty saxophone blasts taking over.
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Anyway, back to the lyrics. It’s worth mentioning ‘Lips That Bite’ again, it is that good a song. The song seems to grind up all the discomfort and moral compass of the band, and not necessarily ask if it’s still worth writing about, but acknowledge how much it can hurt when you keep fighting while not getting as far as you thought you could – “when we’re out there running all day, who wins?”. ‘Violent Complicity’ tackles being taken advantage of, ‘Promissory Note’ rebels harder than 1977 (“I won’t light myself on fire to keep you warm”), and as for what ‘A Wall’ is about…well…consider Donald Trump’s most infamous promise and put two and two together.
When listening to Victoria Ruiz, you’re listening to one of the most expressive singers today. She has a voice that sounds like it can smash down any wall on its own, bi-lingually at that. ‘I’m Enough (I Want More)’ might be her best vocal performance on ‘Cost of Living’, the full-throated frenzies of “I’m enough, you want more!” and “And now we’re here / combine the worth / combine the years / combine your business” are harder than concrete, raw, and cannot be controlled.
‘Cost of Living’ might actually be Downtown Boys’ most determined album yet. It might not pack as great a punch as ‘Full Communist’, but its purity and no holds barred contributions to punk and political music are undeniable. ‘Cost of Living’ is mad as hell, it’s not going to take it anymore, it’s like a thirty-four-minute middle finger.
‘Cost of Living’ is out now via Sub Pop Records. The albums full track listing is as follows…
1. A Wall
2. I’m Enough (I Want More)
3. Somos Chulas (No Somos Pendejas)
4. Promissory Note
5. Because You
6. Violent Complicity
7. It Can’t Wait
9. Heroes (Interlude)
10. Lips That Bite
11. Clara Rancia
12. Bulletproof (Outro)
You can see Downtown Boys at one of these venues…
15th Sept – 17th Sept : Chicago, IL @ Riot Fest
23rd Sept : Los Angeles, CA @ Summer Happenings at The Broad
9th October : Leffinge, Belgium @ Cafe De Zwerver
10th October : Paris, France @ Le Point Ephemere
11th October : Brighton, UK @ The Haunt
12th October : Leeds, UK @ Brudenell Social Club
13th October : Edinburgh, UK @ Sneaky Pete’s
14th October : Glasgow, UK @ Stereo
16th October : Dublin, Ireland @ The Workman’s Club
17th October : Liverpool, UK @ The Shipping Forecast
18th October : London, UK @ Dome Tufnell Park
19th October : Sheffield, UK @ Picture House Social Club
20th October : Manchester, UK @ Deaf Institute
21st October : Bristol, UK @ Simple Things Festival
22nd October : Birmingham, UK @ All Years Leaving Festival
24th October : Munster, Germany @ Gleis 22
25th October : Berlin, Germany @ Urban Spree
26th October : Hamburg, Germany @ Hafenklang