Since releasing its 2016 debut, Body War, Show Me The Body has become a standard-bearer for New York hardcore. Over 10 years in the East Coast DIY scene, the trio’s unmistakable combination of industrial hip-hop, sludge metal and anarcho-punk simultaneously captured the heart and the fringes of underground rock. Following a collaborative mixtape and two singles, SMTB doubled down on unrelenting brutality on its sophomore LP. Dog Whistle’s irate sound, radical outlook and urban grit make it 2019’s indispensable punk rock album.
Lead single “Camp Orchestra” is the perfect mission’s statement for Dog Whistle. Harlan Steed’s atmospheric, technical bass solo drops without warning into sludgy riffage alongside Julian Cashwan Pratt’s janky banjo. Topped off by Pratt’s animalistic barks and Noah Cohen-Corbett’s barbarically groovy drums, this song slays from its jagged breakdown to its venomous anti-Nazi cry, “No work will set you free.” This feral intensity carries over to “Madonna Rocket,” which comes straight from the traditions of Minor Threat and Bad Brains. Its blitz-speed drumming, catchy banjo lines and Ian-MacKaye-esque shouts further spotlight Dog Whistle’s primitive genius.
The first of two skits, “Animal in a Dream” deepens the album’s no-frills appraisal of urban misery with a despondent take on gentrification and social control. Show Me The Body has often centered itself on such struggles, but “Now I Know” and “Arcanum” take these narratives to unprecedented depths. The former’s crushing bass drones and dirge-like rhythms contrast with the latter’s paranoid banjo arpeggios and up-tempo beat change, tied together by Pratt’s bleak lyrical diatribes. The pain in his voice captures the claustrophobia and isolation inherent in the forgotten corners of massive cities, as the band’s maddening sonics keep the music compelling in its nihilism.
SMTB maintains its idiosyncrasies, but Dog Whistle sees the band go for the jugular with violent menace. “Not For Love” and “Badge Grabber” careen from syncopated synth-bass into discordant mosh riffs, as the two-step worthy beat of “Drought” packs a shrill, catchy banjo riff and an impossibly chunky bass tone. Dissonance and unpredictable rhythm changes give these songs the perfect balance of experimentation and crude frenzy. The collision of shrill feedback and battering low end during the breakdown of “Forks and Knives” is bafflingly infectious. It’s the sound of a mosh pit devolving into a war zone, without losing sight of the the punk rap synth blasts at the beginning.
Dog Whistle furthers SMTB’s knack for unbridled viscera, but it’s more conceptually cohesive and direct than its predecessor. “If we die/ Together or apart/ Don’t cry, we’ll see each other again,” ushers in final cut, “USA Lullaby.” It’s a ray of hope in the senseless loss of life often suffered in the intercity. The final cut encapsulates this band’s unique musical and thematic approach. Over an almost psychedelic effect put on Pratt’s banjo and Steed’s insane bass shredding, a raw sing-along chorus closes the record with a bittersweet resolution to move forward: “We ain’t going back there.”
Perhaps more than any other band in modern loud rock, Show Me The Body has developed and stayed true to a style it can call its own. The band’s thuggish grooves impart undeniable catchiness to adventurous songwriting, resurrecting the best elements of the original American punk movement, while expanding beyond any stylistic boundaries. Dog Whistle proves the point Body War presented—Show Me The Body is the best American hardcore band.