As manifestos go, it’s difficult to argue with a statement as darkly straightforward as: ‘Things get shittier every week / No hope for the future in this era bleak’. That’s from the opening verse to Era Bleak’s theme song, which also happens to open up their debut album – it’s as accurate a summary of 2020 as you’re likely to find, made all the more emphatic by a frantic spasm of nervy guitar jerks and a 100mph rhythm section that knows the best way to get you there. Whether you’re looking for a soundtrack or antidote to – or even simply a distraction from – the horrors of the age, this record has most assuredly got your back.
Comprising members of Dark/Light, Piss Test and other punk/post-punk outfits who really should be filling out your record shelves right now, Era Bleak are one of those bands where every ingredient is key. If you really wanted to, you could draw comparisons with present-day heroes like Nots, Nylex or White Lung, but this Portland, Oregon quartet are comfortably and confidently ploughing their own furrow, pulling as many tricks from 1980s hardcore as they do from the awkward crunch of the weirdos who defined the Ron Johnson label. It’s a helluva racket, and it’ll make you feel like dancing drunk at a foam party inside a vat of toxic waste. (For clarity, OF FUCKING COURSE that’s a good thing).
Maybe you’ll feel energised as singer Candy yells, ‘We’ve all got something to say / We’ve all got nothing to say’ on the vapid-slogan-bashing ‘Opinions’. Maybe you’ll want to punch the air with a bulldozer when ‘Mind Control Tower’ reaches its gloriously Adolescents-esque coda. Maybe the pulverising crunch of ‘Burning Sky’ will cause your adrenaline to surge like a blindfold slalom down a vertical drop straight into a pool of lava. Ultimately, this record gathers ten tracks’ worth of thrills, spills and hundred-dollar bills, and the results make for one of the finest punk records of the year.
In all likelihood, you’ll know some dipshits who greeted the sinister rise of the right-wing in recent years with glib remarks like, ‘At least the punk songs will be good.’ At the time, you were correct to roll your eyes in response before returning to the serious business of plotting to overthrow the government – there were and are more important things at stake. Listening to Era Bleak, however, we may have to concede that those dipshits had a point. What a fucking band. – Will Fitzpatrick