“Depression is built into this machine and the evidence is plastered on the morose faces of people caught in the clutches of its business as usual activities. Depression is found in the insurmountable debts we owe for spending a lifetime of preparation and labor to serve the machine. In addition to debt, the machine awards us for our servitude with trinkets, gadgets, doodads and gizmos that provide a moment of hollow amusement and then sit on shelves in garages and decay. They represent the planned obsolescence of the human heart. The sacrifice paid for our fetish with materialism is the actual quality of our lives.”
— Capitalism, Empire and the Gloom Machine — Jason Holland
I don’t normally go in for stuff like this, all complaint with no bonafide facting. But this guy Holland’s a poet. And I don’t normally like poetry either. The part about Cardi B being a hack I take some issue with. She’s funny! Or maybe it’s just that I’m sitting here shovelling needlessly strong craft beer and stolen Pringles into my face at a moderate pace, playing a pointlessly violent video game, as a “reward” to myself for temporarily escaping the foul puppet strings of grinding employment. I deserve this! Don’t tell me this isn’t the good life, you value judgement tosser! That I should I expect more than this! Now we can complain about the lack of evolution in rock music these days all we like, but evolution isn’t the be all and end all (that role falls to fossil fuels, and Russiabaiting, “Syria-is-ours-to-gift,” useful dickhead Democrats who think the difference between two different kinds of utterly corrupt and contemptible suits is worth killing everyone on Earth for). As any good anti-capitalist could tell you, the goal is not always to grow but oftentimes simply to provide sustenance. Punk music, or at least punk mindsets, will be necessary until articles like this are one are untrue. But what form should that punk take?
It’s been quite a year of significant markers as far as my relationship with The Antidon’ts is concerned. During the first week of January they were the musicians that popped my Lucky You Tattoo performance cherry (appropriate considering cherries might be some of the most over-represented images in the punk ink game), in support of Roger Lima’s ska-escaping project Rehasher. Then in late May, when the relentless firepower of the mid-Florida sun was just on the cusp of revealing itself, The Antidon’ts played a backyard show in Clearwater that was one of the most fun times I had this year. This shindig was loaded with copper infiltrations, declarations of lifelong punked-up romance, youth gone wild/wasted, and it led to a write-up that remains the second highest viewed gig review on my website (as an aside, I swear there is no algorithm whatsoever for me to figure how far a piece is going to spread, or why it did after the fact). Then came the full length We Reap What You Sow in late October, somehow not brought to my attention at that time by the gremlin-bots of social media giants, and screeching onto your screens here in the final weeks of the calendar. I still don’t really understand where in Florida they’re from though.
We Reap What You Sow is the above quoted column in musical form, from the clear, unshameful status of victimhood found in the title to the lyrical content and frustrated rage lurking within its digital files (there’s also a cool looking tape release, and a possible vinyl version in the future). It features commentary on many of my personal favourite topics, which should include at least some of yours, no doubt: restless wishes to act out rebellious impulses, addiction, angst, punching Uncle Sam in his stupid face until he bleeds all the money he’s fucking stolen (or as George Carlin puts it at the start of Idiocalypse Now, “the big red white and blue dick that’s being jammed up [American] assholes everyday”). There’s lots of TV and tech and shit employment hate. It’s some of the usual stuff, but it’s well crafted. I’ll take that over a lot of the fluff pumped out under the banner of skate punk these days; a description from the band that doesn’t really do justice to the sound here.
As giant corporations have seized most of our food supply to plant boring, identical monocultures that lay waste to the land, The Antidon’ts are sowing a wide variety of genre crops to provide resilience for the coming years. The music of Nothing’s New To Me combines with the vocal style of bassist Mikey to create a surfy melodic Hellcat crust. With the state of the oceans these days, I suppose being a crusty surfer is not all that hard to fathom. (On a side note, the recent Leftöver Leftöver Crack: The E-Sides and F-sides album is next in my sewage pipeline.) There’s more of this ilk on the ska-seasoned Comfortably Dumb, with guest voices Jesse and Veronica Sendejas adding to the sense of building group discontent. This track namechecks Bill Hicks; if you’re into both Hicks and Carlin maybe check out the comedian Lee Camp, not to mention the funny firebrand journalist Caitlyn Johnstone who I apparently can’t stop linking to. But We Reap What You Sow is by no means a whole album of unwashed atheist anthems. Diverging with Mikey’s screeches is guitarist Zac’s calmly defiant delivery on the likes of the groovy Existential Dread, the fast-paced skate of Turning My Ear and the quality old-fashioned hardcore of Keep That Shit Out of Our Scene.
As if having two singers with differing voices and an interesting blend of different styles sitting side by side wasn’t enough, The Antidon’ts provide further earlobe variety with a lot of great instrumental stretches. From the Introvert intro to the psychedelic beach romp closer of Life’s A Trip, these three are pissed off but not afraid to take the time to think about what they’re saying, and show off their clear musical chops. These frills are good frills. Tracks like Absent Mediator and Barfly Hipster (the ending of which seems to purposefully evoke the Henry Rollins version of Six Pack) are full length punk songs with lyrics, but they’re placed few and far between. While there isn’t much in the way of humour in the lyrics, some of this noodling does indicate the desire for fun for the sake of it, à la the melding of winks and thoughtful rants provided by the likes of Propagandhi and MDC. I am contractually obligated to mention, at this point, the split The Antidon’ts did with MDC last year, available here and to buy on black and white vinyl here. Because if Dave Dictor sees their potential, who the bloody hell are you to not give them a chance? They re-recorded the track Make America Think Again for this long player.
As much as it’s easier to remember only the hardcore blasts of unbridled male emotion, a lot of bands like the Descendents, Dead Kennedys, Bad Brains and obviously Black Flag did have these interludes in their stuff especially as the original scene aged. As far as being a cultural force, punk today has certainly stagnated more than hardcore had by the mid-80s. But The Antidon’ts seem to have taken a lot of these ideas and built upon them. Is it like a Turnstile album, all full of eerie soul and jazz segments, ready to blow up into something resembling mainstream success? Not exactly, but it’s certainly refreshing, which brings me back to the description the band have floating around online. “Florida’s heaviest skate punk trio,” ey? I can see what they were trying to convey with that, but it still seems like a description from their past, that they’re sticking with either because they’re so in the artistic tunnel vision that they don’t realise they’ve outgrown it, or they just don’t know how to better succinctly describe the amalgamation they’ve now got going on here. “Well, that might just be YOUR job, motherfucker!” Touché. Umm… crustaceancore.
It would seem (would you Christmas-eve Adam and Eve it), that jolting out inebriated stream of consciousness bullshit does not always result in Hunter S. Thompson style insightful genius. My introduction seemed a primer for expecting the same old guff, before listing all the ways that We Reap What You Sow is an interesting box o’ listening. I find it hard to imagine a punk band is ever going to light the world on fire again, but this album at least tries to be original in its approach. Importantly, it sounds good doing it too. And for these reasons it lands slap bang in the final chronological spot of my top ten records for the year. If these songs are the seeds The Antidon’ts are planting, future harvests from the gloom machine may be less depressing than we imagine.
We Reap What You Sow, as already stated, is available to buy (pay what you like) at The Antidon’ts bandcamp, and on red cassette (run of just 50) from Swamp Cabbage Records. Hear it on the player below. Vinyl may come at some point. The band will be playing a gig at St. Pete’s Cage Brewing on January 19th for Leadfoot Promotions, alongside Rutterkin and Amuse. I intend to be at that gig, and so should you.
You can stream the album below via the bandcamp player:
The album is available as a digital download on a “name your price” basis from the Antidon’ts bandcamp page