by Michael Gusev
The name The World Is A Mess sounds like an acknowledgement of defeat, a relaxation into political misery, a weary resignation familiar to any American in 2019 -- but the opening moments of the new Future Punx EP (and indeed the general attitudes of each of the six tracks) suggest quite the opposite vibe. It's more like a tongue-in-cheek taking-up of arms, a determined stab at constructive civic insight, a kooky utopian salvo. The Punx are getting right to the point with this one; there's a sense of urgency that is not to be found in their Obama-era recordings.
This brand of tightly wired, grad-school Brooklyn post-punk has personally hooked me since I first saw Future Punx in 2014. At the time, the band was straddling a set of albums (2014's I'm So Inspired EP and 2015's This Is Post-Wave) that were more descriptive or aesthetic in nature. I remember being wowed by the unrelenting robotic smoothness of "999," a jangling gallop of wobbly drum samples, cyberspace synths, and skeevy vocoder whose live iteration seemed, to my punk-starved sensibilities, to be the closest thing to the Bowery of the 80s that I'd ever get to see on a stage. While the succeeding years brought me Parquet Courts, B Boys, Bodega, and many others, the Punx seemed always to be a little more self-aware, swaddling both their tones and lyrics in just the right amount of irony, blending half-joked Daoist platitudes with screwball synthy punk grooves. On The World Is A Mess, the band trades declaratives for imperatives, striking a clearer balance of relevance and nostalgia, which serves to place the political anxieties motivating their sound into a larger historical continuum.
Meanwhile, tonally, the band is still slinging that same spunk: the album's opener, "Want To Be Wanted," is equally mountainous and zany. A kinky synth and drum machine intro flows into a sort of skate RPG boss battle soundtrack on "F Boys," a callout of toxic masculine types. "Society Implies," a Kim-Wilde-reminiscent haranguing of white supremacy, features (perhaps too brazenly) a processed sample of Eric Garner's last moments. The EP sort of comes together in the closing title track, "The World's A Mess (It's In My Kiss)". With the vocals of keyboard queen Heather Strange coming across like a war-cry, it's a determined resignation, a sighing and rolling up of sleeves, maybe the closest thing to pure un-technologized existentialism the Punx will give us this time around.
It's hard not to take The World Is A Mess as anything less than a manifesto, but taken this way, it reads sort of like a new ager's stab at political punk; a structuralist's battle cry in a post-structuralist era. If not quite a resolute statement against capitalism, white supremacy, or patriarchy, perhaps a taking up of this kind of resolute quality into the band's aesthetic -- but this emphasis on aesthetic is not new for Future Punx: this is how they've been grooving since before post-wave.