Welcome to Beandon’s Musical Corner, the only place on campus for in-depth, exhaustive reviews of the latest releases in rock, jazz, experimental … and pretty much everything else. Brandon Rupp (also known by his mononymous musical title “beandon,” under which he releases music and DJs as KZSU’s Student Music Director) explores a new title and gives unfiltered feedback, regardless of the genre. Feel free to send him music; he’d love to take a look!
For certain unaccustomed audiences, this week’s record will be a tough sell: a politically charged, progressive fusion of hardcore punk, industrial rock and rap. For those craving a particularly unique and engaging listen, however, Soul Glo’s most recent record, “Diaspora Problems,” is a relentlessly punishing statement that cannot go under your radar. It’s certainly a contender for my favorite album of the year, for the effortless delivery of its massive ambition.
Philadelphia hardcore band Soul Glo have spent their last three records shredding almost any expectation one could have for a hardcore punk band. With a name that references a gag from “Coming to America,” Soul Glo’s music has been able to aggressively push back against institutional anti-Blackness while still retaining moments of levity, an example being a (fantastic) song on their most recent album, “Driponomics.” The track sings about scalping while simultaneously joking about reselling designer clothing drops for artificially high prices. Naturally, when art juggles this broad contrast — like the juxtaposition between systemic racism versus seemingly flippant absurdism or deeply political hardcore punk versus personal and unguarded emotion — audiences are jolted by the sheer boldness of it all. Never before has an album title so concisely, yet perfectly, described its central driving force: as Jordan explains, “As products also of the African diaspora, every problem we have as people is a result of it.”
The didactic (yet emotionally gripping) lyrics cannot go unmentioned: the band’s politics are crystal clear and fueled by immense anger. It doesn’t get much blunter than, “I’m so bored by the left, protests and reluctance to militarize,” which forms the lyrical motif of “We Wants Revenge.” The band’s brand of leftism is further elaborated with the track “Coming Correct is Cheaper.”
“The true consumption is that of the rich / And I don’t mean on no trendy left shit / The tradition of their habit is all the fine print is / You think you understand ownership?” the track sings.
The lyrics get almost uncomfortably personal at points, with “GODBLESSYALLREALGOOD” featuring heavy-hitting lines like, “sometimes I wonder how it seems to you from your point of view / Because only inside my pain can I be that comfortable / I wept when I wrote this, but I’ll laugh again.” This is a relentless album listening experience elevated by standout lyrics. Beyond all of the screaming and incomprehensible howling, Jordan’s intelligent and poetic use of language rings true as one of the best parts about this album.
I am glad to assure you that, with “Diaspora Problems,” Soul Glo have perfected their method of madness for maximum effect. Unlike their brief previous music, this record almost reaches the 40-minute mark while never once letting up sonically: there are far more words in each line than it seems should be humanly possible, and there are enough riffs in one song to fill about five or six tracks. The howling vocals of lead singer Pierce Jordan can range from startling shrieks to guttural growling, showcasing his most dynamic vocal performance since the inception of the band. Potentially as a result of their signing to legendary punk label Epitath, the band’s production has also seen a notable step-up, with random noises and an influx of samples being interwoven among guitar stabs, massive (and audible!) basslines and perfectly mixed drums.
But the music’s catchiness is the main event. Strangely hooky for a hardcore punk album, “Diaspora Problems” makes it irresistible to yell out the crude lines of songs like album highlights “Gold Chain Punk (whogonbeatmyass?)” and “Spiritual Level of Gang Shit,” the latter having a satisfyingly ascending melody that repeats the title until the song fades out. “Driponomics,” the album’s most overt rap track, is another highlight. The looping distortion, aggressive 808s drum patterns and stop-start groove of the beat are all the perfect base for absolutely insane flows from Jordan and special guest Mother Maryrose, who gives the best-featured performance on the album.
The noise/industrial rock influence comes through with the opening of “Coming Correct is Cheaper,” which features a rhythmic freak-out over a sliding bassline. The structure of “(Five Years And) My Family” plays with these genres most overtly in the form of a calming 30-second electronic introduction leading into searing guitar passages that finish with an industrial guitar breakdown. Though the album may seem like a mess of genres, noises and influences, Soul Glo’s chaotic spirit has found a way to make each of the record’s individual compositions feel both purposeful and fully deserved.
It goes without saying that if you are, even in the slightest, a fan of hardcore music, this record is a must-listen. The consistency and passion of its aggression is almost unrivaled in contemporary music, at least on this scale of ambition. Horn parts? The Think break? Spoken word? With “Diaspora Problems,” Soul Glo doesn’t bother to consider whether or not to include these elements — their crystal-clear vision supersedes any notion of what is “normal” for hardcore music, and the genre re-defining record is all the better for it.
Editor’s Note: This article is a review and contains subjective opinions, thoughts and critiques.