Mark Twain once said that in order to truly find one’s way to genuine inspiration, “First, get your facts straight – then distort them at your leisure.” Now forty-one years after they started (thirteen since last the band released a full-length album of new material), it can be assumed that Subhumans learned all their lessons and got all their details aligned because, in listening to Crisis Point, it’s clear that the band has figured out how to twist what they see into some career-defining hardcore.
As soon as “Terrorist In Waiting” screams out to open the album, listeners will be able to find exactly everything the could have hoped for from Subhumans. There, the drums pummel listeners mercilessly from he moment stylus descends into groove; Trotsky’s unrelenting and perfectly measured percussion assaults listeners with a consistency that implies the drummer warmed up and locked into his rhythm an hour before anyone hit record on this cut and hasn’t let up yet. On top of that, guitarist Bruce Treasure and bassist Phil Bryant follow suit with a tight and stylistically lean presentation while Dick Lucas presents himself very much like the stranger in a land that he once knew, but it no longer resembles the terrain he recalls (and so he wants to lay siege to it and make it his own). From note one, the tension is palpable and easily sends the pulses of those who encounter it skyrocketing, but when the rhythm breaks with the song’s chorus and Subhumans contrast the tension with a melodic hardcore turn, listeners won’t be able to keep themselves from heaving a sigh of satisfaction. The turn represented by the chorus (and then the one which comes when the song reverts for the second verse) is just dazzling and guarantees that listeners will be locked into Crisis Point for the duration.
With its pace already set by “Terrorist…,” Subhumans simply continue realizing cuts which perfectly bolter the same sound, as the A-side continues. “Fear and Confusion” studies the headlines to conclude that there is nothing new, “Information Gap” bounces along on a brilliant bass line and finds a lighter side in propaganda before Lucas almost trips over his own tongue as he syncopates and synchronizes his vocal with the beat in “Follow The Leader,” and then helps the band burn their own house down with the simplest beats, the most incendiary guitar parts and the angriest vocal performance to be found anywhere on the album to close the side. No matter how often one plays through the album, that the A-side plays and self-destructs the way it does remains absolutely astounding; each of the first five cuts on Crisis Point play so boldly that listeners will simply be unable to deny them, and they’ll find they’re completely transfixed. When the needle lifts from the side, the possibility of listeners being satiated is non-existent – they won’t just need more, they’ll DEMAND it.
…And, happily, the B-side quickly sets to upholding the tempo which was set by its counterpart as soon as the needle drops. “Strange Land” opens the side with a chorus pedal-effected guitar to add just the right amount of alt-/new wave color before “99%” switches into a more manic gear, “Punk Machine” settles into an engaging and angular shape, “?” wordlessly adds some dark unsettling sounds for twenty-nine seconds and then “Thought Is Free” offers some resolution with a great, rapid-fire guitar figure and some excellent and direct vocal sloganeering to close out the album. Pound-for-pound, it’s true that the B-side of Crisis Point does fall a bit lighter than its counterpart, but that isn’t intended to imply that it is in any way poorer. In fact, all that holds the B-side of this album back is the fact that, yes, it is shorter.
After listeners have run front-to-back with Crisis Point, they’ll find that they need a second to collect themselves. The reason for that is simple: with rock having been in a state of perpetual upheaval for the lion’s share of the last decade (“upheaval” is the polite term to use – many have wondered if both rock and punk haven’t been either dead or dying the last ten years), it would be easy to shrug off anything a band like Subhumans (who have released just six albums in a 36-year span) as a calculated return, overly earnest, anachronistic or just bad – but no one who plays through Crisis Point would even dream of making such a claim. Rather, after decades of releasing, reinventing and refining themselves, Crisis Point stands out as not only the hands-down best album that Subhumans have ever made, it stands out as being the best punk album released this year. Crisis Point is required listening.
(Pirates Press Records)
Crisis Point is out now on vinyl, CD and is available as a digital download. Buy it here – directly from Pirates Press Records. http://piratespressrecords.com/subhumans-crisis-point