From the romanticism of Richard Hell to the righteousness of Ian Mackaye, America’s east coast has a rich punk heritage. With the long-awaited release of Cerebral Ballzy’s second album, Jaded & Faded, it appears the New York upstarts have taken their time to draw from history and reiterate the possibilities of punk rock.
This album is just as gnarled and tight-knuckled as their first. True to form, 13 songs in under half an hour. This time, though, it’s a more diverse half hour. Guitars are fuzzed out and rearing to go alongside a punchier rhythm section, thanks to their new drummer, Todd Kogut, who has a greater groove sensibility. No song is exactly straight forward, there are plenty of frenetic changes. They’ll still flay and thrash you with tracks like Parade Of Idiots and Speed Wobbles, allowing continuing comparison with Bad Brains. They also bring out the mid-tempo power-pop tracks like Better In Leather and Pretty In The City displaying their appreciation of the 70’s.
But it’s not an entirely retrograde affair. Frontman Honor Titus, with his versatile but no less appropriate vocals, has shown himself to be quite an open-minded and forward thinking person. Particularly when elaborating on what it means to be punk. Not that his lyrics convey this, on the surface they’re largely juvenile e.g. skateboarding, sex, greasy food etc. There are moments of experimentation. Particularly with sounds and rhythm, possibly encouraged by producer, Dave Sitek (of TV On The Radio). The experimentation widens the scope of their sound and brings more modern comparisons like the early, brattish sound of Arctic Monkeys on Lonely As America, or even Bloc Party on Be Your Toy. With these comparisons a staunch punk may well scratch their Cerebral Ballzy sticker off of their deck out of contempt but with liberal definitions comes more challenges to the norm, stimulating, for better or for worse, more cultural punks.
Cerebral Ballzy have cultivated an album that is worth putting on loudly for the kids and the ‘Been-there-done-thats’. It’s also worth investigating culturally because this kind of comprehensive yet condensed sense of punk rock is probably one of the reasons why their label owner Julian Casablancas has labelled them “…the coolest band in the world at the moment”.