THE AUSTERITY PROGRAM // Song 27 by ourbandcanbeyourlife-77
The Austerity Program
New York City, New York, USA
Backsliders and Apostates Will Burn (Hydra Head, 2010)
RIYL: Big Black
Although I'd been planning to sit down and write this review for a few weeks now, THIS bumped writing this review up to the top of my list. If you didn't click that link, it's a news bit about how there is going to be a live tribute to the book "This Band Could Be Your Life", featuring the music of the classic bands from that book as performed by some of the fucking LAMEST modern indie bands who have NOTHING to do with the bands they are covering. In particular, I'm pissed that some jackass (seemingly Michael Azerrad, the author of "This Band..."???) thought it would be "cute" or "funny" or "ironic" if St Vincent covered Big Black. Ha ha, isn't that funny? Aren't you laughing? Its like, St Vincent is this twee folk indie chick, and like, Big Black are that seminal pissed-off noise rock group that basically personified seething hate and loathing? GET IT? THIS BAND COULD BE A JOKE HA HA HA OMG LIKE THAT'S SO FUNNY. Anyway, this is a review of an album, not just my raving about some boneheaded indie rock travesty. And the reason that said travesty prompted this review is because The Austerity Program are pretty much the closest modern equivalent to Big Black around. The relentless drum machine, the heavy bass driving the show, the snarky attitude, the intense energy of Big Black are nicely kept alive by The Austerity Program. On previous releases, Terra Nova and Black Madonna, The Austerity Program didn't quite manage to rise above the rank of "pretty good Big Black rip-offs". On last year's Backsliders and Apostates Will Burn EP, however, The Austerity Program have refined and focused their sound, becoming "pretty excellent Big Black rip-offs". While it's impossible for any Big Black fan to listen to this without hearing that band's influence, there are a few differences between them and The Austerity Program. While The Austerity Program's guitarist/vocalist Justin Foley often recites his lyrics in the same deadpan spoken style that Steve Albini used, Foley also stretches his vocal chords out further, reaching for melody far more than Albini ever did. This is one of the band's most notable qualities, because Foley is not a very good singer. However, I think that fact works to the band's advantage: Foley's caterwauling lends a sense of sincerity that makes his darkly humorous lyrics more interesting. And in terms of subject matter, although Foley visits the same kind of bleak subject matter that Albini covered, Foley seems more desperate and out-of-control than Albini did. While my repeated references to Big Black might seem dismissive of The Austerity Program, I think that there's more going on here than simply paying tribute to an older band. And even if they were, seeing as Big Black are better than 99% of any other band (then or now), being a Big Black clone still puts you ahead of the rest. Just don't ask me what I think of bands that "ironically pay tribute" to them...