I never wanted to consider the prospect of getting jaded, especially about music, since that’s what a good portion of my life has revolved around for a few decades now. Sincerity and enthusiasm are in short supply, and to give in to their opposites means something of a surrender to life’s more crushing machinations. But it sneaks up, especially when dealing with the mountains of new material unloaded upon the public every day.
Barge – No Gain (Vinyl Conflict Records)
I never wanted to consider the prospect of getting jaded, especially about music, since that’s what a good portion of my life has revolved around for a few decades now. Sincerity and enthusiasm are in short supply, and to give in to their opposites means something of a surrender to life’s more crushing machinations. But it sneaks up, especially when dealing with the mountains of new material unloaded upon the public every day. It encroaches to the extent that, even when confronted with something drawing comparison to things I love, my inclination is an eye-roll and a shrug. Barge, for instance, was described to me using comparisons to Infest and No Comment, two of my favorite hardcore bands of their era. My reaction to this was the immediate assumption that, like a good chunk of the recent hardcore that isn’t shooting for Warped Tour side stage slots, they’d only be suckling at the teat of Deep Six Records circa ’92, offering treacly whimpers while those from whom they borrow left nothing but resounding roars.
I assumed this, and I could not have been more wrong. No Gain is an astoundingly good hardcore record and, though the aforementioned band comparisons are fairly accurate, they’re only part of the picture. While the songs do possess the well-constructed flow of the better early power violence bands, there’s as much of an emphasis on heavy, half-time stomp as there is on fast blasting. But unlike many of those attempting this style, the type working with wildly varied parts abutting each other seemingly at random, Barge shy away from the riff salad approach, in favor of a fluidity that exists not only within the songs themselves but within the record as a whole, a continuity that’s aided by a sequencing that minimizes or removes pauses between songs and a recording (done by Barge guitarist Bob Quirk) that doesn’t lose clarity despite its rawness.
Lyrically, the material shies away from the despondent, fucked up quality of some of the scummier bands attempting this sort of thing, the political quality of some of the more socially-conscious types, and the obtuse qualities of some of the more recent dabblers. Instead, the record consists of eight call-outs, blunt expulsions of undiluted rage directed at fake punks, racists, religious prosteletyzers, and humanity in general (each utilizing the accusatory second-person – a “you” or a “your” that vocalist JP Olivos consistently encourages to fuck off and/or die). It’s not subtle or nuanced, but any reduction in the force of the words might prevent them from keeping pace with the violence of the music.
So I was wrong. And while it might be a tiny bit hyperbolic to suggest that Barge are the best hardcore band in Richmond at the moment (though the argument could be made), I’ll practice a modicum of restraint and at least give No Gain credit as one of the better of the genre’s releases that this city has produced in a while. Those who may normally find hardcore’s fastest and harshest strains off-putting and impenetrable can find solid enough songwriting present to latch onto. Others who may be somewhat burnt out on the oversaturation of nouveau power violence in recent years will find material here that’s far better constructed than the vast majority of the bands attempting it. Killer shit – front to back, top to bottom – made by one of the only bands doing this sort of thing right whose members weren’t doing it twenty years ago.