I’ve been listening to a lot of punk lately, mostly Fugazi’s bookending albums, Repeater and The Argument, which seems fitting considering the surge of Occupy Education protests at the moment—a lot of us students, we’re pretty mad. But for me, the best form of expression is hearing the thrashing sounds of guitars, banging of drums, furious bass playing and screaming vocals. But it’s not quite enough to stick to the pioneers and elder statesmen of punk rock, and with the impending hiatus of Toronto’s Fucked Up, there’s a prime opportunity for another hungry hardcore act to take the reins.
Enter Ceremony. This five-piece Bay Area band makes its way onto the broader indie rock scene through Matador Records (their fourth release, their first for the label). From the beginning of new album Zoo, we’re drawn in with the album’s opener, “Hysteria,” which finds Ross Farrar shouting, “Hysteria is all we’ve ever known!” It’s a good start; it’s simple and packs a heavy punch. And given the last three years of nonstop crises and economic chaos, it’s hard not to sympathize with the idea that it’s all we’re ever going to know.
However, as strong a start as that is, Ceremony don’t vary their song structure much, and from there the album grows a bit repetitive. “Repeating The Circle” already makes a reference to itself with its simple lyrics and melodies, and this trend seems to carry on for quite a bit. At least with tracks like “World Blue,” “Citizen,” “Hotel” and “Ordinary People” there’s not much room allowed for exploration beyond fairly conventional punk rock sounds. Ceremony’s best bits are in their longer jams, particularly “Nosebleed” and “Brace Yourself.” These two tracks really showcase the band’s hidden talents, sounding more like they’re having a fun time shredding. These longer songs seem to channel the creative side of the band that, in other places, seems to lie dormant, and there’s nothing better than hearing their endless riffs.
Zoo isn’t a bad start for Ceremony in their new stage on Matador. The band certainly accomplishes what they set out to do: make a punk rock record. While it may be unfair to compare them to Fugazi or labelmates Fucked Up, Ceremony is in a position to take this existing template and push it further. With reunions of both At The Drive-In and Refused happening this year, punk rock nostalgia looms large, but fans can only hold on to reunion tours for so long. Right now is a prime opportunity for Ceremony and like-minded bands to rise up and make something fresh and exciting of punk rock. Playing in a post-Fugazi world can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be.
Fugazi – Repeater
At The Drive-In – Acrobatic Tenement
Fucked Up – The Chemistry Of Common Life
Stream: Ceremony – “Hysteria”