Punk has always had the capacity to speak uncomfortable truths. It’s loud, aggressive music that can provide a platform for expressing frustrations and anger: Some bands focus on the micro level, channelling and working through personal pain; others work in the macro by addressing larger social issues, corrupt institutions, or political disenfranchisement. Downtown Boys specializes in the latter, writing combustible and challenging songs that forcefully face difficult subjects head-on.
The provocative title of Downtown Boys’ upcoming record, Full Communism (out May 4 via Don Giovanni Records), says it all: this is a band enraged and calling out injustices and a broken status quo — from the ever-widening gaps in economic class and the prison industrial complex to racism, homophobia and gender inequality. And as the album’s incisive opener, “Wave Of History,” states, the Providence, Rhode Island group both asserts itself as part of a younger group of similarly socially-active bands — like Priests, Pinkwash, or Perfect Pussy — and empowers a new movement to unite and create change.
“Wave Of History” begins with sharp, militaristic snare hits and simple twin saxophone fanfare — which adds a rhythmic jazz-infused skronk counterpoint to the blistering fast guitar downstrokes. Then, vocalists Joey DeFrancesco and Victoria Ruiz kick the door wide open as they trade their explosively-charged call-and-response chants: “Riding in on a wave, a wave of history!… Not one step back, on the wave of history!…” And later, in unison, they declare “We are the surge!” — a line that will surely get a crowd riled up.
As a frontwoman, Ruiz, is especially charismatic; she’s a force of nature capable of toggling seamlessly between English and Spanish in many of her songs — sometimes from line-to-line, as if giving voice to those who may not be in a position to be heard. When she willfully shouts and spits “Necessity!” amid that unrelenting fury, you can feel the desperation in her voice with increasing urgency. Even in just under two unrelenting minutes, and without many words, Downtown Boys manages to say a lot.