Label: Odd Future Records/Trash Talk Collective
Do Trash Talk really need an introduction at this stage? If you haven’t heard their music, you might have heard about their riotous (literally at times) gigs, and if you haven’t heard about those either then you’re bound to have just heard their name through a friend or other bands talking about them. You’d literally have to be a musical hermit to have passed their name without a blink. If you are this hermit, then let me give you a “Trash Talk 101”.
Trash Talk hail from Sacramento, California and have been leaving fire in their wake since 2005, made up by frontman Lee Spielman (vocals), Garrett Stevenson (guitar), Spencer Pollard (bass) and Sam Bosson (drums). The band have been gone through signings with labels such as Sell Our Souls, Rumble Records, Deathwish and more while releasing several EPs and Splits – several of which would end up on the “Shame” compilation. Eventually, the band decided to do it themselves and released 2008’s self-titled, 2010’s “Eyes & Nines” and a split with noise-pop Wavves under Trash Talk Collective, although they released the “Awake” EP in 2011 with True Panther Sounds.
Meanwhile, Trash Talk built themselves a reputation of being one of the most exciting hardcore bands to see live. Lee is known for his ‘hands-on’ approach, spending more time in the crowd than on the stage, often breaking the invisible barrier between the band and the audience. Both Garrett and Spencer have been known to climb anything during outdoor festivals too; whether it’s the speakers and cabs or the tent construction itself. As the band does these things, the crowd itself is a crazed flood of bodies, twisting and turning into circle pits and crowdsurfers flying off the stages in frequent waves. In other words: If you haven’t been to a Trash Talk show, you need to, just to experience your own mortality.
Then with the release of “Eyes & Nines”, Trash Talk went through a mild change of sound. While “Eyes & Nines” was still aggressive and still affiliated with the ‘thrashcore’ tag they often received for their work beforehand, there was an undeniable change that became fully recognised with the “Awake” EP, showcasing the band’s love for straightforward punk a whole lot more. This brings us to “119” which continues the path with that sound, perhaps finding a catchier niche now more than ever.
This becomes evident with the first track, Eat Your Cycle, a song that despite pure aggression they still manage to produce infectious punk riffs, working well with the chorus “Who says the best is to come? / The future’s blanker than the black of my lungs / I’ve seen the things we become – it’s a cycle / And it’s only just begun”. The subject of this track shows the band’s maturity as well, showing an understanding of people who work 9-to-5 jobs just to get by – although with some nihilistic attitude in the lyrics. Plus, the feedback build-up around halfway through and the dropping hardcore half-pace is pretty heavy.
Next is Exile On Broadway, which sounds like it only just missed out on being on the “Awake” EP, being perhaps the most accessible song on the album. However, no new ground is really tread here, despite the catchy skater punk aesthetics of it. My Rules, which might be an eyebrow raiser for long-time fans, especially with the really old-school punk delivery of “Within my rules – my rules!”, almost reminiscent of Circle Jerks or Black Flag ‘just-leave-me-be’ attitudes. Then there’s the single FEBN, opening with Sam hitting out a driving beat, as the bass and guitar follow in their own time, eventually leading to Lee bursting in with “Can’t eat, can’t drink, my head is spinning / My stomach feasts on itself, how fucking fitting?”. It’s easy to see why it was the first choice for a single with Garrett’s riff locking itself in your mind.
Fifth track Uncivil Disobedience is the first slightly forgettable track despite it’s almost too familiar “Stop me if you’ve heard this song, you’ve heard this song”. Then there’s the track that might split fans into two, a track that has already caused either jumps for joy or spits of disgust: Blossom & Burn.
Why is there so much controversy around this track? Well, if you know Trash Talk, you probably know about OFWGKTA, the hip-hop collective. On this track, the two most well known OF members feature on it, cue Tyler, The Creator and Hodgy Beats. The track starts that dissimilar to Hash Wednesday from “Eyes & Nines“, with the bass intro played in a sludgy style, as Lee and Spencer both scream/yell in despair. Hodgy Beats comes in with the first verse, and actually shouts them, fitting in well with the Trash Talk sound. However, and this is the case for both Hodgy and Tyler, the lyrics are very cheesy and uninspiring – especially with Hodgy’s opening line of “Eeny meeny miny moe, we got a fucking problem”. Tyler’s deep vocals really don’t help the situation either, sounding out of space and out of depth, his opening line almost asking for laughs: “Trash Talk in the black car / This the shit that make all the kids pull the gats out / Fucking blast off / Go ahead and grab the chainsaw”. Just overkill.
Moving onwards, Reasons, is a track that would have easily fit into “Awake”, its mid-pace setting that incites the need to just jump around as Lee shouts “I’m surrounded by idiots, I’m surrounded by fools / Just like me”. Fuck Nostalgia however is another forgettable track, with the all too familiar theme of personal struggle and standard riffs, as well as a straightforward song structure. Apathy suffers from this too, although the riff is only slightly more memorable.
Thanks, But No Thanks revives the album momentarily, injecting more anger and frustration that felt thin on the previous tracks, and actually sounds a throwback to their earlier years with the full force drumbeats and fast-changing chords, as the bass gives some nice short injections at places. The lyrics also have the same symbolism that was common in earlier material, especially with the line “You’re screaming promises that I don’t want to hear / My eyes are shut to you, both hands over my ears”. Unfortunately, another dip takes place with Bad Habits and Swing To Pieces.
For The Lesser Good, the shortest track on this album at 28 seconds, grabs your interest again, especially with the cleanly executed stop-start style riff and Lee’s opening barks of “Six billion people on this earth can’t all be wrong”. The final track The Dogman, the longest song, seems another “Eyes & Nines” style song. Opening with drums on a nice punk beat as feedback plays in the background, then Spencer just roars about the ‘Dogman’, a dark primitive figure, eventually leaving with more feedback as Sam carries on with different fills and beats.
As an album, “119” is not bad by all means, even with the complaints in this review – the hard-hitting tracks definitely overshadow the disappointments. Considering how the fanbase is split into all different types (those who prefer the earlier material, those who prefer the more recent, those who are fans of OF, those who aren’t), this album could go down any way, all depending on the individual. While some people may find the same complaints here, especially with Blossom & Burn, others might see them as highlights. This is an album that will never get an overruling consensus of being “good” or “bad”; which will be interesting to see where Trash Talk will take it from here.
But in no way is the band slowing down or showing any signs of fatigue. Trash Talk have proved that they can still put out some energetic and destructive material, even in their considerably short but work-heavy existence so far. It’s a solid output.
Favourite tracks: Thanks, But No Thanks, FEBN, The Dogman.