Not content with pouring their bleak urgency all over the trials and tribulations of modern existence with 2017 LP Gestalt, Negative Space return with a seven-song slab of brutalist post-punk – and it’s another triumph.
Seething with fury, it almost (but not quite) masks its venomously-spat lyrical content behind angular basslines that Steve Hanley would’ve been proud to call his own and guitar chords thet teeter and totter between the blunt force of Black Flag and the dissonant crunch of Gang of Four. This is no easy ride; it’s music that wraps itself up in peril before clawing its way out and stomping on whatever’s left.
With song titles like Theft Utopia and Performative, you know what you’re getting – a pointed railing against those who hide behind hypocrisy and illusion, while the monochrome glare of the music makes it clear that none of this is to be fucked with.
At times it even sounds like we’ve been caught up in the textured smoosh of Sonic Youth’s Washing Machine, with guitars exploding into senses-crushing fog even as the mechanical clank of the rhythm section continues its relentless, insistent pounding.
Sometimes, of course, they just give way to waves of intense hardcore riffery that’s part frustration, part release – but all of it sounds like everyday life, condensed into one thrilling piece of rock music that’s way too smart for its own good. More like this, please.
Our take: Second 12” from this excellent UK hardcore / post-punk band. Their brand of heavy, anarcho-fueled post-punk (or is it the other way around?) might not be what we expect from Drunken Sailor (a label like Iron Lung or La Vida Es Un Mus would seem more appropriate), but hopefully copies of this record find their way into appreciative hands. If you like Bad Breeding, Institute, and/ or Ex-Cult your hands may qualify as such, because Cruelty sounds kind of like those three bands thrown into a blender. Like Institute and Ex-Cult they’re fond of riding a groove for a long time without getting monotonous, and as with Bad Breeding they layer distorted, echo-drenched whooshing noises over their jams. It’s sort of like if Flux of Pink Indians jumped on stage at a Gang of Four gig and everyone locked into a dense and psychedelic super-jam. My only complaint about Cruelty is that it’s so short, but it’s always a good policy to leave the audience wanting more.