Downtown Boys - Cost of Living

by Steve Ricciutti Rating:8 Release Date:2017-08-11

Hailing from Providence, Rhode Island is Downtown Boys, whose latest (and debut on the Sub-Pop label) Cost of Living is their third dose of the imposing musical force of angry, punk anthems they’ve been bludgeoning audiences with for lo these last half dozen years. Fusing horns with punk thunder, with just enough melodic approachability given the screaming, intimidating, and derisive vocals of Victoria Ruiz, Downtown Boys is a great addition to the dwindling cadre of political musicians.

Out of the gate they storm with the powerful opener “A Wall,” which, while it practically screams its obviousness, also jams the rage home with maximum effect. Ruiz snarls, “A wall is just a wall, and nothing more at all” while the chorus shouts “Fuck it!” Adding later, “And when you see her now, I hope you see yourself.” Enough said.

“What’s the matter? You don’t like what you see? I can’t believe you’re even talking to me! I won’t light myself on fire to keep you warm, won’t carry you up that hill,” Ruiz (whose voice is, at times, a dead ringer for Romeo Void’s Debora Iyall) sneers on the rollicking “Promissary Note.” On “Lips that Bite,” the band demonstrates some greater musical inventiveness beyond the thrashing punk. An urgent, punky sax solo provides a splendid example of their use of horns in less expected places.

Starting off like the soundtrack of a campy horror movie, “Because You” creeps along for the first eight seconds before guitarist Joey La Neve DeFrancesco’s guitar rips into a frantic frenzy; Ruiz’s voice barely keeping above the torrent. It’s an awesome display of ass-kicking intensity.

Cost of Living is as relentless as their notoriously incendiary live shows, and to that end, I wish Downtown Boys would involve the horns more as they provide a broader musical palette and balance, especially if one of the band’s goals is to reach a wider audience. Even as I write this however, I hope they never lose any of their edge or attitude. In an era where artists seem increasingly more willing to pimp their work to corporate johns, uncompromising bands like Downtown Boys become more vital than ever. While some of the issues discussed in our mass media/social network conversation may be new for some (gender identification), others like racism and wealth disparity continue with disturbing virulence, thus assigning even greater necessity to albums like Cost of Living; a welcome sight on an increasingly apolitical landscape. Fight the power, indeed.

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