With the unprecedented diffusion of music brought on by the internet, it seems like every minute sub-sub-genre can now experience its fifteen minutes of quasi-fame. Power violence – a style originating in southern California in the late 1980s which combined the blazing speed of grindcore, the lumbering dirge of sludge metal, and the stripped down aesthetic of hardcore punk – is no exception.
Street Pizza – Cancerous Planet (Sympathizer Records)
With the unprecedented diffusion of music brought on by the internet, it seems like every minute sub-sub-genre can now experience its fifteen minutes of quasi-fame. Power violence – a style originating in southern California in the late 1980s which combined the blazing speed of grindcore, the lumbering dirge of sludge metal, and the stripped down aesthetic of hardcore punk – is no exception. The past half-decade has seen an unprecedented interest in genre progenitors like Infest and Spazz, and it makes sense. So much of hardcore and metal is predicated on extremity and visceral rawness, and when long-standing bands start gravitating towards Ozzfest main stages and Vin Diesel movie soundtracks, it stands to reason that a new generation of middle-of-the-road normal guy hardcore bands like Ceremony and Trash Talk would start to borrow from harsher influences, if only to stay ahead of the curve. Which isn’t to say that the genre has resurfaced only to be co-opted. There are thousands of bands who have taken cues from power violence’s early days and stayed true to the style’s roots. While some of these bands pull it off, very few are able to capture the experimental spirit of the genre’s earliest bands, whose approach was more an attempt to force together influences to see what fit rather than to try to solidify a singular aesthetic. Occasionally, there are bands that can offer a glimpse at something that, if not absolutely ground-breaking, transcends simple imitation.
Richmond’s Street Pizza fits the latter category, but rather than steal commonly-utilized genre tropes, the band utilizes the approach of their better forebears – synthesizing influences in favor of a whole that is more than the sum of its parts. Their lo-fi recording complements the songs’ blunt brutality, and while the album might have sounded better had it undergone a mastering job, this type of music does not necessarily suffer for a lack of studio polish. While those well-versed in the genre will immediately notice similarities with Crossed Out or Neanderthal, Street Pizza injects their songs with a more rock-oriented melodic sense; the intro to “Pills” could be a long-lost Germs out-take and songs like “Pay To Pray” or their cover of Weedeater’s “Spoonfed” display a strong doom metal influence.
It’s unfortunate the band opted not to include lyrics, because their approach separates them from the majority of bands in their genre. Rather than the bleakness of bands like Capitalist Casualties or the goofy inside jokes of Spazz, Street Pizza opts for a more personal approach which tackles the frustrations and successes of daily life without undermining the gravity of their situations with nihilistic posturing or joke-band excess. They take on organized religion in “Pay To Pray,” flaky roommates in “Joke Bust,” and uninspiring work situations in “9 to 5 on 95.” It’s not all negative, however – their tribute to DIY community, the song “Bone Zone,” is a fitting tribute to the unfortunately defunct house in which members lived and booked hundreds of shows.
Street Pizza offers no attempt to craft themselves as a carbon copy of any single predecessor. They’re not the most original band in the world. Their recording is rough, their lyrics absent, and the artwork is pixelated. But power violence was never about easy accessibility, and even if it were, details like that are beside the point. Street Pizza has created an album that understands its influences rather than imitating them, an album which deals in the small tragedies and triumphs that every successive day offers up.