Whether you see your own struggles reflected in their lyrics, or you’re an ally to those struggling against oppression; Downtown Boys’ second album Cost Of Living is a record that demands your undivided attention. This is the Providence-based punk band’s first release with Sub Pop records, and it’s as eye-opening and formidable as their 2015 debut, Full Communism.
Opening track ‘A Wall’ brims with Downtown Boys’ trademark thundering drums, rolling guitar riffs, and bold vocals. Lyrically inspired by Assata Shakur’s poem “i believe in living”, it feels as if there’s no musical or political wall this band can’t smash through. Their refusal to let those who’ve been trampled on by racists, homophobes or fascists is a beacon of hope in this Trump-led world; and vocalist Victoria Ruiz powerfully reminds oppressors that: “You can’t pull the plug on us”.
The mantra-like title of second track ‘I’m Enough (I Want More)’ bleeds perfectly in to third track ‘Somos Chulas (No Somos Pendejas)’, which is is sung entirely in Spanish. Speaking in a recent interview with Consequence of Sound, the band said the track is an attack on white supremacy, and translates as “I’m elegant/intelligent, I’m not dumb!”. Regardless of translation, the song still blazes with confident intensity.
You’ll be mouthing the confrontational lyrics to ‘Promissory Note’ in the mirror – “what’s the matter, you don’t like what you see?” – before ‘Because You’ changes the pace of the record. It begins with a strung-out, ominous bass line before guitar feedback and ferocious drums launch the track in to noise-rock territory. ‘Violent Complicity’ is vehement and direct in its address, whilst ‘It Can’t Wait’ is as urgent as it sounds.
The devious opening bass on ‘Tonta’ and manic sax between verses makes it the perfect moshing track. It’s followed by brief interlude ‘Heroes’, which is a motivational moment of self-autonomy: “we won this fight, because everyone made themselves the hero of their own story”. It serves as reminder for those who may be struggling not to lose their faith. ‘Lips That Bite’ provides further motivation to fight back in any way you can, and there’s more ferocious Spanish lyrics on ‘Clara’.
‘Bulletproof (Outro)’ closes the record, and despite it’s brevity; it’s a powerful, long-lasting reminder to “stay beyond woke, stay safe, stay bulletproof”. Downtown Boys are dedicated to championing the voices of the Chicana, queer, and Latino communities, and they’ve achieved this on Cost Of Living with their relentless lyrical sensitivity, and sharp-yet-gritty punk and sax infusions. The closing line of final track rings truer after each listen: “We don’t need to convince the snakes or the flowers to tear down the walls of the garden, we just need to live”.
Cost Of Living is available to purchase now. Follow Downtown Boys on Facebook for more updates.
Downtown Boys UK Tour Dates:
11th Oct – Brighton, UK @ The Haunt
12th Oct – Leeds, UK @ Brudenell Social Club
13th Oct – Edinburgh, UK @ Sneaky Peteâ€™s
14th Oct – Glasgow, UK @ Stereo
16th Oct – Dublin, Ireland @ The Workmanâ€™s Club
17th Oct – Liverpool, UK @ The Shipping Forecast
18th Oct – London, UK @ Dome Tufnell Park
19th Oct – Sheffield, UK @ Picture House Social Club
20th Oct – Manchester, UK @ Deaf Institute
21st Oct – Bristol, UK @ Simple Things Festival
22nd Oct – Birmingham, UK @ All Years Leaving Festival
Photo Credit: Miguel Rosario