Published Oct 30, 2018For their first two full-lengths, Drug Church leaned on the distorted side of alt-rock, unifying grunge, punk and hardcore curated for the radio. Some might even call it power punk. On Cheer, there are still heaps of dust and fuzz, but Drug Church have made themselves accessible. Frontman Patrick Kindlon wears many suits; a notable comic book artist, host of the Axe To Grind podcast and ringleader of avant-hardcore venture Self Defense Family. For their third effort, we find him and his bandmates at their most catchy, informed and scathing.
Cheer is the Drug Church zenith with a poppy edge that — from a space all their own — recalls the Pixies, Fountains of Wayne and Culture Abuse. The groovy "Avoidarama" is an anthem for introverted behaviour and social media dependency that climaxes with melodies that showcase that all-too-relatable anger; when you're so upset, all you can do is laugh. "Strong References" unpacks Kindlon's self-image over colourful guitar pedals and air-tight song structure, while "Weed Pin" analyzes the sleazy tendencies of capitalism from a sarcastic tone, ardently shouting "At $12.50 an hour / I should have started a chemical fire." The way the group relates with humanity is complicated and endearing, and it all comes to fruition on the beautiful and moving "Unlicensed Guidance Counsellor."
Sometimes Kindlon and company are too angsty for their own good. The "No gods, no masters" lyric in finale "Tillary" reads as dated and edgy, but the funky tempos throughout the track manage to conclude with charm. "Conflict Minded" initially lacks the wow factor of the record's first half, but as the track wanders into a sort of doo-wop grunge, you're left wondering if you're alone in being impatient for the sweet spots of Drug Church. For every bit of Cheer that is worthy of criticism, there are outnumbered neighbouring moments that give each track a sense of irresistibility.
Combining the passionate onslaught of hardcore with a reasonable portion of grunge and radio-ready power pop, the New York group's cynical punk tone often feels effortless. If you're just hearing of Drug Church or weren't sold on their two prior works, now's the time to stay for a sermon. (Pure Noise)