by Torrey Proto (@torreysbrewin)
San Francisco six-piece outfit Culture Abuse recently released a Spotify playlist of songs that inspired their debut LP Peach. With songs from Weezer to Rancid, to the recently-deceased sitar wizard Ravi Shankar, it’s not hard to see the influence they have had over their sound and puts in perspective just how much it’s changed.
Culture Abuse get sunnier and poppier on Peach, though one of the few obvious holdouts from their past are David Kelling's serrated, morose vocals, though the delivery is toned down. This works well pitted against the bright and lively instrumentation. Despite its more melodic sound, Peach still owes much to the noisy hardcore and SoCal skate punk found on previous releases. They've toned down the noise, but the band is still as loud as ever and knows how to party, as anyone who’s witnessed their rambunctious live sets can attest to. Only this time the party is all-inclusive and seeks to keep old friends while rubbing shoulders with new crowds. They’ve successfully created something truly wild and fun that transcends the bullshit monotony of everyday life.
It becomes instantly clear on opener "Chinatown" that Culture Abuse are embracing positivity in the face of adversity, carrying on despite the loss of close friends. “Never thought my friends would have to say /gotta gotta gotta live the way you wanna/gotta gotta gotta prove just how you’re gonna/gotta gotta gotta love just who you wanna," bellows Kelling. Beholden to their true DIY spirit, this serves as a noble and timeless mission statement of sorts for the band. Doing what you want to and doing the best with what you have while you’re here are major themes on the record. Other stand out tracks like “Dream On” and “Peace on Earth” carry similar sentiments of surviving without much and battling the odds and society’s expectations for success.
Now with three guitarists present, producer Scott Goodrich's guitar heavy production gives the band the necessary heft to make their hooks play big, which is sometimes at the expense of the band's secret weapon, bassist Shane Plitt. Despite this, Plitt makes his presence known and does an admirable job of holding down the low end. He shines on "Turn It Off" as the guitars drop out and he and drummer Ross Traver lay down an infectious, dub-inspired groove, allowing Kelling to slow it down and breathe a sigh of relief as the song slowly fades out.
The record's consistency works almost to a fault. Peach is cohesive from start to finish, making it difficult to pick a favorite. However, upon multiple listens, Culture Abuse reward you with ten earworm anthems that will undoubtedly be stuck in your head on repeat for weeks. The band proves to be more dynamic than they let on at first. Keyboards, strings, acoustic guitar, and even harmonica show up on tracks like "Yuckies" and the brief interlude "Living in the City" and don't feel out of place or tacked on for the sake of it but rather are well-placed left turns that help to shake things up. The languid, dreamy shoegaze of finale "Heavy Love" is another welcome change of pace that appropriately closes out an excellent debut.
Culture Abuse's straightforward but poignant lyrical themes and enthusiasm are what really allow them to stand out among their peers. They've remained true to themselves and continue to carve their own path, ignoring passing trends. Unconcerned with being cool, they prove to be the very definition of it with endless heaps of swagger and a healthy amount of bravado. Culture Abuse are an easy band to root for and their unwavering confidence and "just go for it" attitude should win the hearts and minds of many unwitting soon-to-be fans in the near future. The quality of their music should help too.