Voice Of Addiction, out of Chicago, IL, just released a new full-length album The Lost Art of Empathy on July 16, 2017. They are not your average independent band. In fact, since Ian Tomele (bass and lead vocals) founded Wrecking Ball Productions, you could argue that they are not independent at all. Doing close to one hundred shows per year since 2004, having sold thousands of albums, and having five official releases means that they’re a cut above the rest.
The first song, “Rustbelt,” really sets the tone. Lightning fast drums, massive guitars, and a bright bass guitar that’s all over the place reminds you that Voice Of Addiction is a punk rock band at heart. The album is half old-school Good Riddance (ACGTMR era) and half Fugazi, with not-quite-anthem-like melodies. You hear some sprinkles of Graffin-style vocal harmonies and melodies, and it really suits the music.
I have to give props to the token ska-punk song “Corporate Pariah.” It came out of left field, brought a smile to my face, and made me wonder if Ian Tomele might be related to Matt Freeman.
The album leaves no doubt that Tomele (Bass), Smith (Guitar) and Tynan (drums) are incredible musicians. However, they don’t show it off too often. I know that punk isn’t necessarily about technical proficiency or song complexity, but in my opinion, this “simple can be good” mentality shouldn’t force great musicians to tone it down. There are a ton of great bands out there making complex music while still being 100% punk rock.
This last part isn’t a criticism, by the way. This album is consistently good from beginning to end. However, I do feel that this kind of high-octane, political punk rock has become somewhat commonplace. This is spectacular for fans, but less so for bands. The massive amount of quality punk being produced means that bands need to stand out more. Voice Of Addiction are absolutely a quality punk rock band, but that list is starting to get crowded.
This band works by rolling into the venue, melting everyone’s face off, selling a ton of albums, and then moving on to the next town. This is great, but ultimately not sustainable. What happens if one of the members can’t tour? Or if the dreaded family life gets in the way? Their success relies on being physically present all the time. The last song of the album, “Are We Even Human Anymore?”, touches on this very subject, a beautiful acoustic number about the bitter sweetness of extensive touring. Personally, this was my favourite song on the album by a wide margin.
Obviously I’m not in their shoes, so I’m not sure which specific changes would help to achieve this. Variations to the music? A different approach for their social media campaigns? Cooperation with bigger labels? I honestly don’t know, but I like this band and I would like their music to keep echoing even after the tours have stopped.
I’ll leave it to the listener to decide if this should have been a powerhouse 6 or 7 song EP or if the current full-length album is solid enough to stand on its own legs. Comment below, if you’d like!
Written by Mathieu Cousineau
*edited by Kate Erickson