When is something ever truly punk enough? How much is a band willing to sacrifice to bring themselves to the level of what any given asshole considers “punk enough”? Tossing all of that aside, I will admit that it takes a ton of balls to lay anyone’s work out on the reviewer’s cross, which brings us to Montreal punk rock trio Hood Rats and their recent full-length release Digital Wasteland.
Little can be said about Hood Rats as an act, as little can be found out about them, aside from mentions of a plethora of performances (including most notably their recent opening of the D.O.A show here in Montreal this past October), and the uncontested fact that they are punk as fuck. Without dwelling on descriptions and history lessons, the inner workings of Digital Wasteland as a recorded effort dances on the very thin line defining a punk album. It’s always going to be you, the reader, that is going to decide what is truly punk, be it a composition of sounds to create a genre of music, or a defiance against the great beast of conformity. In this particular case, my qualm lies with the recording quality.
With a giant personal opinion sticker slapped on top of these next few points, I have to say that the recording quality of this record honestly upsets me. To my ears, this sounds like a singular recording microphone was dropped in front of a guitar amp, the record button on a laptop was hit, and the rest is history. Every song sounds recorded in one shot, full band, live-style (which isn’t the worst thing), then “lather, rinse, repeat” with MAYBE a tune up or an effect change (or possible somebody just unknowingly kicking the mic around accidently, thus changing position). I wanna talk about the compositions; I wanna talk about the drum work or the vocal consistencies, or even the lyrics, but a lot of it really isn’t decipherable. I don’t want to mistake, at the start of “Brainwashed,” what sounds like a misstep when it could be perfectly on time as intended. I don’t wanna say the punches are off on “This Party Sucks” because honestly, I can’t tell.
What I can say is that the guitar work sounds like it’s potentially super solid, that “Stand up and Fight” is probably a banger tune, and this band is dirty as fuck and probably rips live. Do I know any of these things for sure just by listening to Digital Wasteland? No, I kind of don’t, and everything else is strictly left to assumption due to the poor recording quality. If that doesn’t make me punk enough, then so be it. The way I see it, though, is if a band like Trigger Effect can bang out a record like Dare to Ride the Heliocraft inside of two overnight sessions in a studio (also full-band, live style and arguably in a ROUGHLY similar vein of punk), then why am I hearing what could potentially be fun, grimy tunes recorded in such a lo-fi fashion? The question comes down to one real point: was it because it was punk as fuck to go this route, or because the effort wasn’t really there? I’m not here to assume, I’m here to say that I want this record to be better produced.
Written by Jason Greenberg
*edited by Kate Erickson