Album Review: Show Me The Body – Survive EP

[Loma Vista; 2021]

When genre-blending hardcore punks Show Me The Body released their sophomore record Dog Whistle back in early 2019, America stood at an impasse, bogged down by an overwhelming sense of dread and disbelief that could be easily attributed to one side: the right. With live shows, we were at the very least able to exercise this pent-up anger and futility against fascism, especially those led by the raging charge of this beloved Brooklyn band. Now things are different. It’s impossible to crowd-kill a stranger without catching Covid. Still, this new age has presented the band with new ways to channel their knack for community and proactive socio-political movement. 

Since we’ve last heard from Show Me The body, the trio have helped create CORPUS, an effort developed to focus on community initiatives to help those in need during the pandemic, where vulnerabilities of the marginalized have been magnified to the nth degree. The band also used their time alone and indoors to think about how they would remain prescient with messaging, something any essential punk band should always be thinking about. With that said, their new EP Survive is a peek into the band’s frame of mind as they remain one of the most vital acts making politically-charged music right now.

Unlike Dog Whistle, which saw the rabid trio take aim at the obviously abhorrent right, this three-track offering places both sides (though truly one) within their line of fire. Aside from delivering surface-level commentary of being isolated and marginalized during a moment in history where everyone is isolated, on Survive, Show Me The Body are now taking a stance against the USA’s institutions that are buoyed by a two-party system, including the police state that joins democrats and republicans at the hip.

Bootlickers alike – both from the right and the left – are put to the test and stretched to an uncomfortable extent with the EP’s opening track “Rubberband”. While swarmed by noisy industrial throbs, “Rubberband” sees Show Me The Body’s ferocious vocalist and thrashing banjo player Julian Cashwan Pratt grapple with the concept of identity as it relates to privilege. He assumes a position of frankness, probing those who frequent their local coffee shop with avocado toast and latte in hand while a homeless camp resides a mere block away; “What’s the place from where you came? / Who died and gave you a name? / Show face, or are you ashamed?” Stimulated by a skull-rattling mix of percussion and sludgy riffs, the track becomes increasingly urgent as Pratt further exposes those who confide in their creature comforts without a care for those who have nothing. “Who’s supposed to laugh / and who cries?” he ponders with sneering dissent. In addition to the track’s distinguished mix of industrial noise and limb-flailing riffs, “Rubberband” proves itself to be a quintessential Show Me The Body moment as they throw barbed political jabs from all angles, while still managing to pierce through a layer or two deeper into their victim, more than what listeners are accustomed to that is.

With the two remaining songs, Show Me The Body’s critical death grip only becomes tighter. Despite its comparably lethargic tempo, the slow death march that is “People on TV” finds Pratt spitting venom with even more vitriol. He opens the track: “People on TV sure know how to die / Everyone at home knows how to cry,” possibly suggesting the distrust between what’s conveyed in mainstream media versus what the blue-collar individual experiences every day. As Show Me The Body stands in solidarity with the have-nots and against those who have, listeners are dragged into the deep end of the band’s lyrical despair, distorted through a lo-fi and muddy lens. “People On TV” emerges from the trenches with a creeping synth line that could’ve easily been pulled from an early 90s low-budget thriller, which happens to bode well with Pratt’s cryptic and slightly tongue-in-cheek words. “People On TV” may not pack a punch with immediacy like “Rubberband”, but its wicked doom-and-gloom grants listeners enough time to breathe, preparing them for the pyrotechnic fury to come.

One of the many great things about Show Me The Body is that they’re never one to mince their words. Though they can sometimes brush upon societal plagues with superficial strokes, they mean what they say with an unheralded sense of conviction. With this in mind, the lead single and title track off Survive, which rounds out the EP, may be the band’s most precise and boisterous statement to date. A grimy and untamed call-to-arms against the entire system of the police state, Pratt’s lyrics are liberating as he repeats with a snarl throughout the track: “I never cry watching pigs die.” Even within the hardcore genre, one would be hard-pressed to find a band who could say something as direct and honest, especially when it’s a band with a growing cult following. These words alone can rile up a large crowd by simply uttering them in a spoken sentence – and not just crowds of fans, but also people who might take offence at such a statement. But Show Me The Body doesn’t settle for merely saying things. They harness power, not just from their words and beliefs alone, but by providing the cataclysmic sounds that could effortlessly raise an army against the powers that be. Here, guitars shred at breakneck speeds, drums pummel away with murderous intent, and per usual, Pratt rips his own tongue out and lays it out – blood and all – for all to experience in awe. With his voice as visceral and passionate as ever, “Survive” is an unabashed hardcore ripper that’ll incinerate your eardrums and any idea of a ‘good cop’ in your head. 

It doesn’t take a full-length album for Show Me The Body to communicate their usual incendiary socio-political commentary. Though Pratt’s lyrics are, at times, a bit broad, they’re familiar and exhibit a feeling that’ll resonate with the marginalized many. It’s punk music; it’s not supposed to be lyrically dense – it’s to be sung communally with the sole purpose of saying “fuck you” to all oppressors.