Strive to Survive is the latest offering from Southern California’s Overexposure. The record contains six tracks (or seven if you pick up the vinyl) that continue the band’s love affair with 1990s East Bay Hardcore.
Featuring artwork from Onetricpony (Be Well, Field Day, Enact, those really cool hardcore flyers you see on Instagram), the band has shown us once again that they are the masters at what they do and boy, do they do it well.
Though Strive to Survive won't be out till tomorrow (May 12th), No Echo got the full thing streaming below for you, along with my thoughts on the EP.
The opening track "Read the Signs (No Salvation)" will have sounds familiar to those who fell in love with Overexposure's debut LP, California ‘98–ripping guitar solos, bouncing basslines, and eerie howls from the band’s frontman, Ryan Doria. The lyrics of the song are a damning examination of the hypocrisy of religion.
This is a classic “God Free Youth” anthem and a perfect way to begin the EP. Read more about the band’s take on the track here.
The next song, "Inside Your Mind," explores guitar tone textures and leads not previously utilized by the band. Interjecting a big rock feel while still maintaining their hardcore edge squarely positions them in the lane of bands like The Suicide File and Hour of the Wolf. Coupled with some creative homophonic word usage in the lyrics, the band shows that they’re here to play for keeps.
The record soldiers on into a more melodic territory with "Get Out." Through this track, the band really shows off their writing chops, as well as their reverence to the aformentioned East Bay Hardcore sound akin to the greats AFI and The Nerve Agents. To this writer’s ears, "Get Out" is equal parts Black Sails in the Sunset and Days of the White Owl.
Peppered with Overexposure’s signature gang vocals and high-necked bass lines, what works in this track is attention to detail and their ability to fill the spaces of a more midtempo number. A delicate balance of letting certain sections of the chart breathe while knowing where to let certain instruments shine is achieved and shows masterful songwriting.
Track four, "Dead to Me," intersperses continued prowess with its command of dynamics between the verses and choruses. This song also utilizes what’s known as the “Barry Manilow modulation," or the technique of intentionally increasing the intensity of a song by changing the key at the end. The kicker in the case of "Dead to Me" is that unlike most key changes, the key change goes down instead of up—an incredibly uncommon feat. For more instances of this see: "Penny Lane" by The Beatles, "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen, or "Wouldn’t It Be Nice" by The Beach Boys. This is some truly inspired genius-level shit.
The standout track of the record is both the darkest and fastest song, titled "Panic." Of the lyrics, Doria describes them as telling the tale of someone’s actions catching up to them, causing a state of alarm, or panic as it were. The song features a great bass solo, increasing the sense of urgency that guides the outro to the penultimate buildup ending the carefully crafted goth-infused hardcore opus that will put a smile on the face of anyone with an affinity for the stylings of Siouxie and the Banshees mixed with the fervor of hardcore punk ferocity.
The record closes with the politically charged tune, "Twisted Teeth." We are guided through more familiar punk landscapes throughout the first half of the song until the bottom drops out in the middle of the song seguing from a first pounding slow down iinto a “creepy crawl” bassline, urging the listener to get down on all fours before the band come back in with a welcomed traditional two-step mosh part.
With "Twisted Teeth," Overexposure proves their ability to put engaging songsmithing into the world combining potential energy with the actual need for response. This one is sure to bring even the most curmudgeonly of punks out of mosh retirement.
So often in music (especially in hardcore) bands latch onto a certain sound or style and continuously fail to bring their own sensibilities and more often than not lose their identity in the process. Where others have failed in paying homage, Overexposure have amazingly avoided the pitfalls of replication and have managed to carve out a sound that is distinguishable and distinct to them.
Follow-up releases can either make or break a band’s trajectory. On the one hand, fans can criticize a band for being overly ambitious and making too much of a departure from what they loved about them initially. On the other hand, complaints can be made when a band plays it safe and puts out the same record twice in a row.
Overexposure manage to escape both of these fates and really lean into the margins of their sound, creating a batch of songs that feel familiar yet refreshing, which is an accomplishment not often met. Strive to Survive shows that they are experienced musicians and songwriters and the evidence of this is found in the numerous intricacies contained within this record.
Pick up the Strive to Survive vinyl from War Against Records (featuring a vinyl excluse cover of The Germs’ "What We Do Is Secret") and stream the digital wherever you like to do that.
Overexposure will be heading out on an East Coast tour next week, but they'll first be playing a show with Naked Aggression, Marred, Piss, and Expect the Worst this Saturday (May 13th) to kick it all off. Check out the dates above.