Bad Breeding have a bone to pick with capitalism. The band’s frontman, Jake Farrell, wrote a 2,000-word essay on how capital grinds down the resolve of everyday people, perpetuates ongoing cycles of depression and reduces the sum of parts to being supplies that can be bought and sold in the marketplace. “Our lives are not to be managed like we are each a plucky start-up, not to be measured in the emotional profit and loss that we can extract from our relationships and those around us,” he writes. “We don’t need to invest time and energy on capital projects of the self on some doomed, linear journey to self actualisation.” In other words, you’re worth more than your value in the marketplace.
It’s not an optimistic message that drives Human Capital, the Stevenage, UK group’s third album of raucous and urgent hardcore punk, but it is a compassionate one. A necessary contradiction drives the music that Bad Breeding creates—pissed as hell but always with their eye toward justice and redemption for a society destroyed by a system it created. A political punk band for whom solidarity is a driving principle, Bad Breeding seem incapable of bullshitting their audience, which is in large part what makes the aggressive anthems of Human Capital so potent.
From the brooding opening bassline of “Community,” which occasionally breaks into moments of blistering ferocity, there are scant few moments on Human Capital that find Bad Breeding sounding anything less than ready for a fight. It’s hard not to find their activist-minded musical violence infectious, especially with moments as thrilling as the explosive power chord punch of “Joyride,” the manic death-surf of “Misdirection,” or the ominous noise rock pulse of the title track. Between these highlights are a number of more direct bursts of bloodthirsty hardcore, cannonball aggressive and with one hell of a bad attitude, but incredibly fun regardless of how dead-serious the band is.
The benefit of using music as a vehicle for more critical thought is that it’s easier to win hearts and minds when they’re having a good time. That’s almost assuredly not lost on Bad Breeding, who play hardcore and not minimalist drone music. This music is fun, in large part because it’s loud, fast and rife with moments of incendiary surprise. Perhaps the finer points of anti-capitalist critique aren’t as penetrative while you’re stage diving, but a sweaty scrum shouting along to gang vocals can be as beautiful a communal experience as an act of protest.
Label: One Little Independent/Iron Lung
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.