The Suicide Machines have been a part of my life since I was a 15 year old kid so still reviewing them after turning 40 is sort of surreal, I thought either I'd be dead by now or they'd have been long gone. They were almost long gone after 2006 when they broke up after 15 years of spreading their political tinged ska punk madness all across america, touring on an almost yearly basis and really putting the work in. To summarize this new album, they have managed to perfect the craft they have been fine-tuning for years, and still bring all the energy and anger towards the establishment that they always have. This band has "aged/matured with us", not "just aged" so to speak.
The message hasn't changed much but that's because overall, the country hasn't changed an awful lot since the early 90's. We still have massive amounts of class, race, gender and income inequality under the guise of still being "the best country in the world", partisan politics have us more divided than ever and this record reflects the growing weariness and discontent with a system that only works for the few. However, hearing new music from bands that believe the same way I do is a beacon of hope as it was to me when I first hear "Destruction By Definition" as a moronic 16 year old desperate to fit in, desperate to have my voice heard and to make a change in a clearly flawed existence.
They come out swinging with a 'Bully in Blue', an anti-police state anthem that calls out police brutality against black and other minority Americans, and I can relate to the message 'I won't apologize for making sense' and 'If you are white then think about this If you were black would it be different?' There is no denying that this is a systemic problem that has yet to be addressed after years of 'Murder and abuse when they aim the guns at you.' The silence, excuses and deflection I have heard from the majority of white America over the years says everything, as long as something doesn't directly affect someone in this country, they don't raise their voices.
'Awkward Always' really hits me in the nostalgia, 'On the Outside looking in' describes how I felt most of the time when I heard "Destruction..." all those years ago. Without that album and others of the time I'm not sure I would have made it out sof some of those times, and the nostalgia turns into the reality of 'I got old but I still feel the same' about many things. The next track 'Babylon of Ours' is basically an overall depiction of disgust with the current state of affairs centering upon the overwhelming greed we are experiencing and this is shown even more by our response to covid-19. The rich will survive while the poor will end up being statistics if they can't afford treatment.
'Flint Hostage Crisis' is a hot take on the Flint Water which feeds into the ongoing theme of the exploitation of the poor, the people of Flint have gone years with water that has killed many and the damage can't even be truly quantified without massive studies on the aftermath which will never be done because no one cares enough about poor Americans and no one will ever be punished the way they should be for failing the people like that. Definitely an awesome thing that they as native Michigan sons are calling this out.
I'll let the lyrics of 'To Play Caesar' (Is to be stabbed to death) speak for themselves:
I ask why? I ask why do we always do this to ourselves
It seems like this movement will always eat itself
We always fight each other instead of the real enemy
If this is your revolution than its not for me
A lot of people in this country want a lot of the same things but we allow ourselves to be divided by partisan politics and the two different realities people in this country are living in. I feed into this as much as anyone else, but we constantly need to work towards coming to an agreement that we need to overthrow the oppressor instead of allowing the oppressor to continue to divide. The poor and middle class are not your enemy.
'Trapped in a Bomb' is a short non-as-heavy song that immediately goes into 'Detroit is the New Miami', a song that smacks of the bracing, super-abrasive songs from 'Battle Hymns' like 'War Profiteering is Killing Us All'. Angry as fuck, in your face, all of the things that really spoke to me as a younger kid and continue to this day because when I see anger I see passion and energy, without which a band is useless to me.
'Eternal Contrarian' is a love song to those assholes that always have to disagree just to say the opposite of whatever you say, I'm sure everyone knows people like this. 'I want to get out of this place, you want to stay in this mess' and 'jack of all trades, master of none' pretty much sums of people that go out of their way to be willfully ignorant just because they disrespect your opinion to that level. 'Well Whiskey Wishes' on the surface seems to be a song about drinking not solving all of your problems, something I can relate to as an ex-alcoholic. My interpretation could be off but 'When you wish upon a bar makes no difference who you are, You will always wind up on the floor next to all of your wishes from the night before' sounds like a tale of regret, which at least 2/3 of my life is built upon. Then 'Black Tar Halo', a song about a heroin addict and 'Empty Time' continues on the self destruction theme with 'If my heart would work I’d tear it out right here, doing cocaine in the bathroom stalls'. This album is an album of themes and making up for lost time while also weaving that lost time into palatable songs.
'Impossible Possibilities' is a song of hope and PMA in an album of mixed negative/positive vibes but it's all relatable, 'You have a choice so make it count, PMA and motivation to change your situation' gives hope that we can re-frame some of the negativity flying at us constantly. They go back to the anarchist theme with 'Potter's Song' and a sentiment that as a student of history resinates: 'You think by now that we would know better Maybe learn from our history Let’s take down all the bastards in power Or we will be doomed to repeat'.
'Simple' is the catchy, radio friendly song that in the old days would have been all over 103.9 WDRE in Philly which was the same station I first heard the band in 1996. I will undoubtedly have this line stuck in my head for days, 'It’s never as bad as bad as you think, the sun still shines feels good on my face'. I know that I and I'm sure many others need some positivity right now in a really difficult time and bands are trying to deliver it and entertain us. Anarchist Wedding is a quick, catchy and fun love song full of energy to deliver us to the last track and in my opinion the best way to end an album with 'Cheers To Ya', an all out horned assault that definitely takes me back to the ska shows everyone was having in the mid-late 90's. They really finished strong, this is the thoughts of a disgruntled, middle aged and disillusioned adult. 'So here’s to regret we drink to forget Just who we were or wanted to be'.
I was lucky enough to see them just a few years ago on a loading dock at the former Neshaminy Brewery venue north of Philly and they absolutely killed it, hopefully this album means more shows to add to the 4/5 times I have seen them since 1996. I can't be happier that this band is back, this album is really helping pick my spirits up in the middle of a global pandemic, and it's a message that really matters now more than ever. Together, we can change this world, if we continue to allow the powers that be keep us divided then things will continue on as they have. Standing up against it is exhausting but it must be done. Get involved, do what needs to be done to better this world of shit.