Scream : DC Special

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Scream DC Special review

It’s great to have Scream in modern public consciousness as more than trivia, more than “that band Dave Grohl joined before Nirvana.” They deserve renaissance, coming up in the 1980s as part of the Washington, D.C. hardcore punk scene alongside bands like Minor Threat and as the first act to release an LP on Ian MacKaye’s Dischord label. Just understand that their hardcore has clearly turned a little post- on DC Special, their first proper studio release in 30 years.

DC Special is massive by modern pop standards, let alone punk. The CD and streaming versions include 18 tracks totaling 61 minutes, filled with guests from Grohl and MacKaye on down through decades of genre history. “Hel Nah,” “Represent,” and more run about as hard and fast, political and philosophical, as what came from Scream during the 1980s. What might work best here is a sweet spot of songs that actually hew closer to power pop than anything else—not as fast as the band’s historical norm, but at least energetic. Here Scream sound like they’re having the most fun: “Politics is Entertainment,” the warbling groove of “The Fism,” the celebration of the punk scene as a surrogate family in “DC Special Sha La La.”

Unfortunately, that speed issue is also what drags down DC Special overall. Some of this music is more methodical and measured than even their 1993 denouement Fumble, from the hazy “Somebody Love” to the COVID-fueled acoustic emotion of “Last of the Soft.” There’s a clutch of songs here that suggest troubadour folk-punk from the Jade Tree/Dave Hause school. There’s nothing wrong with that on its face, and it’s always interesting to see punks packing more than just three chords and a cloud of dust. But coming from this source in this moment feels like Scream needing breaks and help to cross the finish line of this album, loaded with extra and unnecessary weight, an unspoken acknowledgement that time has caught up with them.

Label: Dischord

Year: 2023

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