Artist: Joy Buttons
Review by Jessi Roti – @JessiTaylorRO
Joy Buttons don’t give you what you’d expect on its latest, Other EP. What opens with nu-wave punk feedback similar to Joy Division or The Cure quickly crashes at the 1:30 mark with explosive, hardcore vocals.
The band seems to enjoy pushing the listener out of their comfort zone, whether they’re an avid punk listener or not. It’s easy to imagine the scene at a Joy Buttons show – where patrons go from standing together to crashing against one another as the band thrashes on stage.
The lushness of the instrumentation on the opening and title track, “Other,” against the vocal aggression is as daunting as it is welcome. But, while “Other” sets itself up more expansively, the band quickly establishes its fiery, relentless niche of D.C. hardcore.
The following three tracks pack themselves into ferocious spurts of two minutes each. “Runaway” feels like a sprint compared to the four-minute marathon of “Other.” But in true DC punk fashion, small bands often pack the biggest punches.
Lyrically, punk and hardcore have always narrated the trials and tribulations of the underdog. “The Box” follows that tradition, almost to a fault. Fed-up with the establishment, the socio-economic politics of where you live, and what’s expected of you – angst that’s always relatable. Particularly in D.C, which is famous for its hardcore punk scene. What’s nice is that Joy Buttons are obviously well-versed in the greatest acts, from S.O.A. to Teen Idles and Bad Brains.
The EP’s standout track is closer, “Triumphant Stabbing.” Spastic and irresistible in its brutality, it’s an explosive and direct call to arms. The “fight or flight” take on punk has been long overdue. The underdog’s story is always worth telling, no matter how brash and unpolished. Joy Buttons are wonderfully unpolished, and while “Other” shows that there’s an untapped skill for expanding their sound, I hope they stick in their niche awhile longer.