Album Review: Show Me The Body – Trouble The Water

[Loma Vista; 2022]

“Cast the first stone, deafen the silence,” Julian Pratt ferociously calls to arms on the song “We Came To Play” from Show Me The Body‘s latest album, Trouble The Water. Stirring the pot any chance they get in the studio or in front of an audience, Show Me The Body excrete the spillage from boiled-up suppression that froths and magnifies with every flagrant injustice and disguised neo-liberal gesture perpetuating the evil ever-present in America. This evil is the eternal genesis of the band’s existence, which is why there is never a particular time or moment for Show Me The Body or other bands of their revolting kind. Rather, every day, every hour, and every minute requires the plainspoken vitriol of the New York band’s experimental hardcore. Forever spitting in the face of the status quo, momentary outrage, and social media activism won’t cut it for Show Me The Body; radical change — or just change — is the name of their game. 

This change sounds like a molotov cocktail broken through a gentrified storefront, pigs squealing for mercy or even the thwacks and thuds of colliding bodies from young people as they unconsciously two-step out of hopelessness and into a vision defined by community. This subversive ethos is not only made possible through the band’s admirable efforts in building a safe space for misfits through their CORPUS Family, but, most obviously, through a uniquely futuristic punk interpretation of hardcore, where even the open embrace of banjo somehow makes sense. Nonetheless, never has the band felt so tapped into their subversive nature than on Trouble The Water.

Show Me The Body’s third full-length record finds the disheveled outfit down in the deep, ragged, dingy trenches of this post-Trump and neo-fascist moment in history. However, this time, their righteous anger and volatility manifest in some of the most refreshing hardcore the east coast has to offer. Now, the genre’s landscape may sound different than it once did 10, 20 years ago, but this new record, in all its shapeshifting, arcane essence, unfurls with such malevolence — there’s simply no denying that the genre’s yeomens’ spirit is as alive as ever.

I don’t know how they’ve managed to do it, but these angsty punks just seem angrier and wearier of their world with every subsequent release. When Dog Whistle dropped, I thought the same: each track passed by at a torrential pace, with the band playing fast and furious every minute afforded to them. While Trouble The Water may not reach the same breakneck speeds or earsplitting loudness of their 2019 album, it does frenzy with a deep-seated fire in the wait, opting to take time in more expansive and expressive sonic spaces that brood and fester to amplify every anxious moment. Trouble The Water is, simply put, tense. 

The most obvious case of this stirring chaos arrives with “WW4”. A song of this title warrants expectations of immediate tumult, but that’s not necessarily the case here. This two-part gut-punch begins with the pensive campfire plucks of Pratt’s banjo, a reflective posture, and soft-rapped forewarnings of dystopic chaos. However, after a good two minutes, the band cranes its neck backward to channel its usual rapid-speed wrath to finish the song off. The track’s final moments are not unlike what we’re used to from Show Me The Body – still, its mediative rising action keeps listeners at bay with just enough anticipation for the rest of “WW4” to detonate to full, unyielding effect, where Pratt lambasts and proclaims that we’re living amidst an impending apocalypse: “Don’t care how they’re spinning it / World War 4, outside they giving it / Seeing heads up against sediment…”

Elsewhere, “Radiator” feels as urgent as Show Me The Body’s banjo or guitar-led rippers without the obvious inclusion of either instrument. Later, they veer from their usual formula of metalcore and hardcore, pushing beyond their own left-field standards of sound and style with the pulverizing electro-punk of both “Boils Up” and “Demeanor”. Both these tracks either possess an overwhelming buzzsaw of spinning synthesizers or the disorienting distortion of banjo and guitar, choices that threaten and clash with genre tradition. The results are more Skinny Puppy than Minor Threat, which may be offputting to hardcore purists at first. But, by the time those listeners escape the ever-tightening grip of Trouble The Water, Show Me The body will still have left the lingering taste of leather boot in the mouths of those same individuals.

While Trouble The Water is ripe with sonic excursions generally unfamiliar to the hardcore genre, that doesn’t mean the band aren’t down for a good ‘ole, curb-stomping romp that can incite a war — see “Food From Plate” and the previously mentioned “We Came To Play” as obvious proof. These moments are few and, at the least, interspersed throughout Trouble The Water, but that’s because the band is here to flip tables and do things radically different too. 

Whether it’s the unassuming twang of banjo or synthesizers coursing with the same sensation of getting teeth drilled without anesthetic, Show Me The Body recognize there is no limit to style or combination of instruments that can create the go-to sound of a revolution. It’s the hunger for change when everything stagnates in the muck of sameness that defines it. Still, the band know their audience, as well as the musical lineage they’re a part of and the space cultivated for them so that they may continue to push the genre into the future.

That said, the title track and closer to Trouble The Water is as blueprint of a hardcore ripper imaginable. Yet, its down-to-earth honesty and unchristened heart for revolution allow the song to come across as the most hard-hitting piece of rock music heard this year. As is customary with any incendiary Show Me The Body moment, Pratt emerges from literal muck and sludgy guitar sections to release every one of his words as if they’re his last, growling the album’s call-to-arms mantra, “I trouble the water / I turn water to blood.” These are simple words but sincerely believed ones too, and with Pratt nearly frying his vocal cords to close the record – the band’s potent sting prevails yet again.

It’s impossible not to come away beaten and bruised by the undulating savagery that emits from a Show Me The Body record. However, from the same wringer, hope miraculously springs eternal. On Trouble The Water, the New York band burn more intensely than ever for a just future that embraces all people for the sake of all people, even if it takes exposing the oozing, untreated scab left between what is and what should be to realize this future.