Violent Soho’s ‘Waco’ Is More Fun Than You’ll Ever Be
Posted on April 4, 2016
Luke Boerdam of Violent Soho has a bold claim on “Viceroy,” the second single on the band’s new album Waco. It’s the type of line that may as well be the title of a future Violent Soho memoir; a spot-on summation of what old fans have come to adore and newcomers should expect:
“My drunk guitar is more fun than you’ll ever be.”
It’s hard to argue with him. These grunge punks hailing from Brisbane, Australia have perfected a signature sound of massive guitars, screaming vocals and ’90s-informed angst since their start in 2004. The band is following up their certified-gold 2013 release, Hungry Ghost, with Waco on SideOneDummy Records. While Hungry Ghost is what really launched the band into mainstream success, they would never have made it that far without a brilliant stroke of fate: their hero Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth) asked them out-of-the-blue to join Ecstatic Peace!, Moore’s own label, in 2009. The music gods smiled on punks everywhere that day, because they’ve been blessed with three studio albums and a couple of EPs since the band began, all of which are memorable testaments to grungy guitar-driven rock. Waco is no different. In fact, it’s the band’s best work yet.
The album takes its name from the city of Waco, Texas, where a religious cult and the FBI got into a shootout in 1993 that ultimately ended in an out-of-control fire and the death of over 70 people (The entire story is very, very strange and disturbing which you can read more about here). The album is, unsurprisingly, sprinkled with religious themes and lyrics without ever really diving into anything concrete, and that’s fine. Violent Soho seem to be more concerned with headbanging than preaching.
And make no mistake: heads will bang to Waco. The opening track, “How To Taste,” lulls listeners into a false sense of security with pleasant, melodic guitars for all of ten seconds before throwing a haymaker of riffs and screams that connect hard. The melodic sections return several times, letting listeners lick their wounds for a moment only for them to turn over to some of the heaviest, darkest riffs and angriest vocals the band has ever written. It’s like they’re beating you senseless and then throwing an arm around your shoulder and offering you a beer. And somehow the song still manages to be catchy and singable.
The first single, “Like Soda,” is about as perfect as a pop-driven rock song can be. It debuted last year but still feels powerful and new every time the intro starts to pick up and Boerdam delivers the anthemic slacker-hero lyrics, “I don’t mind/ I don’t care/ I’ll just say/ Whatever.” The verses feature that signature scream-singing style Soho does so well while delivering a truly memorable, feel-good, catchy chorus (not to mention the video is thoroughly entertaining. Seriously, it’s got the elderly doing drugs in it). The aforementioned “Viceroy” has a tunneling bassline which then plunges into those monstrous riffs fans will recognize as quintessential Violent Soho by now. You’ll be headbanging, but you’ll also be singing along. It’s rare that a band can make the listener do both.
It would be easy for Violent Soho to churn out a batch of cookie-cutter songs with a hook and a riff, but Soho manage to make their more melodic sections just as enjoyable as their intense ones. “So Sentimental” manages to sound both melancholy and uplifting at the same time, like reminiscing about missed friends, as does “No Shade”. One of the best tracks on the album, “Holy Cave,” has a hard-hitting chorus juxtaposed between stripped down verses and a beautiful, melodic bridge. Simply put, Soho can do it all: even the somber moments make me want to sing along and bob my head. It isn’t fair that a band can be this good; it borders on being discouraging to the rest of us.
Expectations were high after Hungry Ghost, but Violent Soho have surpassed it. They’ve created something that is heavy, singable, and melodic all at once; a seamless amalgamation of great qualities that not many bands can pull off. Waco can go from placid to pissed, melodic to malevolent, at any time and often in the same song. While there’s not a huge progression sonically between their last two albums, it is a perfectly-crafted next step without a single song worth skipping. Crank the volume up as loud as it goes and take a journey to Waco, Texas. If you’re not moving or singing along, we might have to check your pulse.