STAR FUCKING HIPSTERS
From the Dumpster To The Grave
CD - $10.00
The 3rd release from NYC squatter punk royalty- it's the followup to their excellent AT record Never Rest In Peace. Stza (Leftover Crack) and friends rip through 12 songs that unexpectedly include several genres including punk, ska, hip hop, metal, and folk, all wrapped in a hardcore shell. Intertwined male and female vocals harmonize and shriek over some of the crunchiest guitars ever recorded, culminating in massive crescendos of explosive sound.
This features long-time female vocalist Nico and female vocals from the East Bay's Kill-C of Chump Change, superstar punk drummer Mikey Erg, plus an appearance by Boots Riley of The Coup!
"When Punknews last interviewed Scott Sturgeon, lead vocalist and principal song writer of Star Fucking Hipsters, he stated that the reason for his increased rate of productivity was mainly due to living a healthier lifestyle. Well, on From the Dumpster to the Grave, it shows. Grave is SFH's sparkiest release to date, and sees Sturgeon returning to the frantic genre-jumping found on his earliest releases with his previous bands, Choking Victim and Leftover Crack.
SFH's last release, 2009's underrated Never Rest in Peace, featured the band taking on a somber tone, sludging through crusty ballads and vitriolic metal attacks. But since then, the group has seen several notable changes including the departure of co-vocalist Nico and the addition of Mikey Erg on drums, which has taken the group from the melancholy to the manic.
Most prominently, Grave is packed with ska tunes, albeit in Sturgeon's unique style, which slides some downtrend rumbling and buzzing crust guitar underneath the upstroke. While Never Rest in Peace's songs each seemed to be carefully crafted pieces, unique to themselves, Grave follows the Oingo Boingo strategy found on Choking Victim's No Gods/No Managers and Leftover Crack's Mediocre Generica, as the band flies through songs that are more wisps than weighty pieces, suddenly switching songs halfway through from third wave ska, to death metal stomping, to heart-on-the-sleeve balladeering. But, because the album is so frantic and moves so quickly from style to style, even when they are taking a depressing facade, they seem to be having a good time being sad as evidenced by the underlying energy that propels the morose.
It's often said that the drummer is the engine of the band and it's true here. Mikey Erg, formerly of the Ergs and 37 other bands, is one of the titans of pop-punk and his rapid, skipping pace injects the energy into these tunes that creates the interesting contrast of joyful tempo mixed with macabre lyrics.
While former co-vocalist Nico is no longer with the band, she appears on the album along with Sturgeon and new co-vocalist Kelsey. It's a shame that Nico has left, as this record is her finest hour. On the group's left turn cover of They Might Be Giants' "Ana Ng," Nico uses her pop vocals to twist through the song's off kilter delivery and make it seem that the weirdness of the song isn't that weird at all. However, her replacement, Kelsey, brings a new attribute to the album. while Nico's voice was very clean, Kelsey seems to have a lower range and is able to meet Sturgeon's voice of molasses and glass with her own crusty growl, also while maintaining some poppier elements.
Sturgeon follows his lyrical trajectory to date, attacking capitalism, admonishing big wigs and and confronting depression. But while these topics can become blah-blah-blah after a while, the serious messages are mixed into a series of tight, short, upbeat tunes. When Sturgeon shouts, "We'll never be a system slave!" it hits like an impassioned speech instead of a sophomore poli-sci whiner. When he laments "The more I reap the less I sow," it seems to be true introspection rather than pseudo-philosophy blabbering.
Notably, Coup emcee Boots Riley drops in to kick out some anti-capitalism battle raps. While Boots is in top form, bending words around plays on words around references you get 7 hours after the fact. Wisely, instead of forcing Boots' words over rock music, the band uses their instrumentation to create beats that are neither strictly hip-hop nor strictly punk, but ones that meet somewhere in the middle which complements Boots' delivery instead of fighting with it.
With SFH's first two releases, the band seemed to be getting heavier and more resigned to fate. But here, I hesitate to say they are refreshed to face the end, but what other way is there to describe willfully skanking into the eye of an atomic bomb blast?"