With half the band having left their native Texas for New York, Readjusting the Locks is the first Institute album written across the country. Despite the distance it sounds every bit as cohesive as if they were all still hanging out every night in the same Austin dives. The newly NYC-based Moses Brown and Arak Avakian flew to Houston in October 2018, where they joined Barry Elkanick and Adam Cahoon to demo the entirety of the new album in a single day. In December, the band got back together in Brooklyn to record with their longtime producer Ben Greenberg (Uniform).
Where the previous Institute albums often wandered into the experimental, Readjusting the Locks strives to be economical, its 13 tracks clocking in at a tight 29 minutes. The band has seamlessly incorporated more ’77 rock n’ roll into their sound, some songs feeling like they could’ve been a Stiff Records single. This sound is emphasized by Greenberg’s expert production — crisp but still blown out and dirty. Lyrically, Readjusting the Locks moves away from the traditionally personal words of frontman Moses Brown. Rather than attacking the internal workings of his brain or its socialization, as on previous records, this album attempts to address the societal atmosphere in which his agita exists.
Blaming Neoliberalism and the irresponsible notions of utopia fostered under it, Brown argues that in recent decades the Western world’s assumption that humanity would continue to prosper into the future has, on the contrary, created a disastrous political vacuum. This has allowed
banks, corporations, and their politicians to aimlessly advance the Neoliberal agenda into an inconceivably dangerous place. He argues that we are deadlocked in a permanent existential crisis, stuck in an unhumanitarian and environmentally destructive system so all-consuming that we will not find a clear alternative. Without a true plan for a sustainable future those in power will continue to offer humanity new policies, technologies, and politicians that promise change but are only capable of “readjusting the locks” on our incomprehensible existential predicament.
STATEMENT BY MOSES BROWN (VOCALS/LYRICS):
IT IS A COMMONLY HELD BELIEF.... that humanity has launched itself to the point of no return & into a unsustainable future without a proper skill set to now reassess and properly handle the deadlock we have arrived at!
Armed with our classical skills of production, consumption, and the creation of capital, humanity will now be tasked with continually managing an incomprehensible crisis by coaxing our immediate existential problems into digestible solutions resembling new policies and technologies truly inept at solving anything.
Though constantly reminded of global social inequalities revolving around money, the sociopathic power of banks and corporations to bend the world in their favor, and our society’s detrimental effect on the life sustaining capabilities of this planet, as a whole we are generally
downtrodden and so consumed in this world that we are incapable of shaking the assumption that out future will be framed in anything but more of the same.
We are stubborn, despite what we’ve preached our entire existence, we do not possess the ability to create a truly just and sustainable “utopia” on this earth - nor do we have the time to reassess the future currently in store for us - thus humanity will perpetually be “READJUSTING
THE LOCKS” of our existential crisis in order to socially manage a decline into absolution (as has proven to be the path of least resistance)….
We’re living in a world of dangerously quick solutions justified under the narrative of progress. This is irresponsible and unhumanitarian, it construes the world into black and white agendas and out of reality, marginalizing many in the process. This is a world that doesn’t take
calculated actions or react to the needs of its people. We will continue sweeping the well being of humanity under the rug in the name of advancing ourselves.
Our take: Latest 12” EP from this now-veteran punk band. While I’m suspicious of newer bands playing in a post-punk style, Institute never seem like a throwback. They always push their sound forward in interesting ways and always have intriguing lyrics that tackle contemporary topics rather than collaging together tropes from old records. While Institute’s previous record, 2017’s Subordination, was their most ambitious release, Readjusting the Locks is, on the whole, a more straightforward rock / punk-oriented record. When I imagine Institute’s guitar sound, I think of something like the snaky melodic lines of Zounds or Crisis, but most of the songs on Readjusting the Locks rely heavily on power chords. When combined with their loose and swingy drumming, this choice gives many of these tracks a Kinks-esque garage flavor. While this sound is new for Institute, it’s not the record’s only mode. There are also tracks like the hardcore of “St. John’s Wort” and the closer “Deadlock,” the most melodic Institute song to date. I wouldn’t call Readjusting the Locks my favorite Institute record, but they remain one of the most interesting and vital bands in the current punk scene, and everything they do is well worth your attention, this release included.