Few labels have been as consistently vital and important as Lockin' Out. The Boston purveyors of all things hardcore haven't slipped through anyone's radar. After starting with the seminal And You Know This 7", they've managed to drop audial fire in the form of records by Righteous Jams, Terror, Rival Mob, Power Trip, No Warning, and the afforementioned Mental. My first exposure to LOR was after picking up On the Stremph, the highwater mark for Baltimore's favorite repo-men Slumlords. Despite their stellar early rampage through the early to mid 'oughts, Lockin' Out continues to nail it in the here and now, having more recently released stellar slabs of wax via Fiddlehead, Mil-Spec, Red Death, Krimewatch, and Give.
Far be it from me to dictate what constitutes a "slept-on" record, so instead let me offer up an EP that needs another look. Take your Iced Grillz to the jeweler and ask for a reappraisal, this record is gold. This time around, I'm talking about 2014's S/T offering from Consolation Prize. Comprised of members from the infamous Wilkes-Barre Cold World crew as well as Triple-B approved wrecking (Youth) crew Stick Together, their legacy is but six songs (one track appeared on the America's Hardcore Volume 3 compilation). Some might say that's reason enough to not be remembered (try saying that about Inside Out!).
Though ceratinly well-received at the time and critically lauded by some, it's tough to stand out when your members are also responsible for some of the most crucial HxC albums of the 2000s. Seriously, though, pick up Stick Together's discography on Triple B for topshelf Youth Crew. In full disclosure, some of my favorite recent hardcore records approach such "project band" territory: bands whose sound is a unique and distinct take on a micro sub-genre, firmly referencing a time and place. Consolation Prize, though defiantly themselves, had me at their influences.
There will be Supertouch comparisons made, but I can assure you the Earth Is Not Flat. Nor is Consolation Prize's hyper-specific '90s approach to their all-to-brief musical output. There's a soulful quality to the gravel-throated earnesty that manages to avoid both the thematic and sonic trappings of melodic post-hardcore. Though admittedly inspired and influenced by the groove and bounce of their forebears, there's less straightforward rock in their sound. At times, it calls to mind a more contemplative Farside, a less feral Swiz, Soul Side sans the Girls Against Boys funk bass, Ignition, Bluetip, and deep-cut Revolution Summer.
The throughline to New Jersey's posi-icons Turning Point, though not immediately clear, is an easier touchtone when considering their tendency to blend and blur intricate, octave-heavy arrangements with the fury and fervor of hardcore. Mid-paced and tempered though no less emotionally overt, the EP's sweetspot is somewhere both within and outside the framework of their myriad influences. Despite the palpable and youthful enthusiasm, the posi-youth vibes are lost when digging into the lyrics. Emotionally vague in that it's universally applicable and relatable, there's a reluctant sense of isolationism, desperation, and self-doubt.
Lyrically, there are subtly devastating lines; simple turns of phrase that find their footing in the search instead of the soapbox. Consolation Prize, whether inadvertent or not, mines a depth of spirit with self-immolating daggers like "I was happy once but not twice","you tell me late at night, in the mirror... you tell me you're alone." As narratives, they're fascinating exercises in misdirection. At first accusatory, it quickly becomes likely the narrator is, in fact, the target of the vocalist's scorn.
The EP, though done painfully quickly, isn’t just your standard slow-burn. Upon multiple deeper listens, the deft construction reveals itself. Both “Cat-Eyed” and “Come What May” highlight their tendency to change pace fluidly mid-song. The former belies a band so indebted to hardcore they manage a traditional build up even when not exploding into traditional punk song structure. Instead, the song opens up into a flood of '90s flecked alt-core. “Run and Hide," the stellar follow up, begins with a plaintively plucked acoustic intro and ends with a wailing guitar solo that wouldn’t have sounded out of place in first generation pre-grunge Seattle or an Into Another LP.
Both “Mayfly” and the masterful “Freudian Slip” use a descending guitar riff built around downhill momentum, the drums in both given a chance to play acrobatically. The latter, to me, is the highlight of the EP and the indicator as to where they could have gone next. With a bass intro heavy on the type post-Hardcore penned by Quicksand, there’s nary a wasted opportunity for the band to flex its collective muscle. It’s a tour through their musical neighborhood... pace that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Stick Together or Cold World song and a raging freedom that not only calls upon the past.
Still clearly a hardcore band most comfortable playing within its confines, this one-off is a testament to the fruits possible when pushing beyond your own expectations. It predicts the following years in hardcore and adjacent genres that found bands continuing to mine the '90s in loving tribute.
Consolation Prize was likely never meant to be more than what it was. As a tribute to the more rock-inclined stylings of the '90s Revelation roster, the touch is super (groan). I’m guessing Lockin’ Out will only continue pumping out insta-classics. There’s sure to be records we individually or collectively missed out on. If you haven’t given the Consolation Prize S/T a shot, rectify that shit immediately.