Reviews

Chill Parents, At the Barricades (Self-Released, 2020)

High School is a hotbed for archetypes, so much so that we all likely knew the one kid in our circle with the cool folks. Ya know, the ones that let you party unbothered in their dank, half-finished basement. The socially awkward third basemen on my rec team had a stepdad who’d routinely gorge us with Toaster Strudels after we knowingly smoked bowls under their deck.

What, you ask, does this have to do with punk? Well, I tell you this for no other reason than to clumsily segue into the apt moniker of today’s sonic subject: the ripping DC punk band known as Chill Parents. 

Though the unrivaled fuckery of 2020 persists, as does the wildly untamable liberty of punk rock. The band’s new full length, At the Barricades, is the jewel in an already rad discography that sports the noisy punk sound collage that is 2018’s hail ACAB

Appropriately enough, the mimesis on display herein is both more aggressive and realized than what came before. Still intact is the band’s expert employment of a good sample, calling to mind the Crucifucks’ madcap antagonism and the scathingly sardonic Dead Kennedys. They’ve also long flaunted an affinity for the Recess Records sound that I’m a born mark for.

Mining the freaky flagship bands of said label F.Y.P. and successor Toys That Kill, Chill Parents revel in a sneering variety of punk rock that doesn’t feel the need to inhabit one space for very long. In fact, they casually run the gamut from blitzing hardcore to rambunctiously sloppy pop-punk in the course of individual songs, eschewing a verse, chorus, verse structure in lieu of doing whatever the fuck they want. 

As if y’all didn’t know, the intro is dubbed, well, “Intro” and it’s little more than a garbled piano melody broken by a b-movie warped sound effect. Once “Take Me” pops off, it’s found riding in on a hyperactive, blazing hardcore song. As they do all over this record, they wisely layer the vocals and deliver them with all the requisite snot and nearly-hidden wit of Dillinger Four or the Criminals. 

“Like That” is, for me, the fucking song. After a disquieting retro sample that details the differences between lethal nerve agents, the band comes in subtly, slowly scaffolding a tentative and mysterious riff not altogether unlike the aforementioned authors of “California Uber Alles.” There’s a note perfect bounce and gang vocals that might legitimately be the entire three-piece screeching along in sync. This is sloppy music played by the tightest of bands, sounding like the fucked-up lovechild of Tenement and the weirder end of modern-day USHC. 

Arriving on a galloping riff like an unwelcome dinner guest is “Lottery.” Wonderfully bonkers, skronky, and densely echoed, it follows the path less taken through an ascending/descending riff not miles from the jazzy hardcore of NOMEANSNO and the absolute heyday of Alternative Tentacles. Beneath the dizzying amount of noise and feedback is a killer tune, topped off with an apoplectic click for the duration, as if breathing like the weirdo on the other end of the phone. 

Photo: Chris Chen

“New Division” keeps the proceedings off-kilter and sounding almost at odds with itself. It’s a joyful mess of driving bass and punk that defies description. Noisemakers pop in the background, sounding as much like Dr. Demento as they do Flipper. Much like the downtuned, half-tempo weirdos, Chill Parents flaunt a blatant disregard, if not disdain for the zeitgeist. Cacophonous, boisterous, and fucking joyous. 

Though “Been Drinking” opens with the band’s most straightforward riff, the vocals soon warp and melt almost atonally around the chords. More 4/4 than they get on most of the tracks, it manages to brag it’s low end and the blown out, treble-first heaviness. There’s no discernible chorus or verse and it works splendidly, but they’re clearly a band content to invert song structure as they please.

As is the case with everything on the LP, the playing is always pointed to its payoff and this one doesn’t betray that trend. It careens recklessly to its own finish, picking up steam and shucking off its skin as it goes. They rarely sound the same, but they always sound like Chill Parents. 

“Boat Money” finds them just north of 30 seconds, and it’s a savage a hardcore punk ripper that touches on early '80s USHC and the scorchers being released via La Vida Es Un Mus Records, albeit through the mangled lens of weirdos.

Again, the layered vocals add an ever-increasing celebratory vibe, coalescing into a song that damn near bursts before its end. You can hear friends in these songs and that’s a rare quality. 

Any song that starts with an Airheads sample is already a winner. Lest I give ‘em an A+ before reading the term paper, “Safe Tracking” is yet another frantic and explosive blast of off-kilter punk. Being adventurous isn’t so much predictable as it is expected at this point.

Their next walkabout is punctuated with a pissed-off, bass-led “oooooh” that exhilarates as it springboards into the back half. The guitar work here is absolutely bananas, splitting the difference between Greg Ginn, “Maggot Brain," and the “still flirting with hardcore” iteration of early Screeching Weasel. It ends on a deftly placed, ACAB-baiting Rolling Stones sample that needs to be heard.  

At 3 minutes,”Big Chug” is a veritable epic by their standards. In place of any actual chorus, there’s a sustained throat shredding scream every half minute or so. It’s some wildly inventive shit and, after a momentary slowdown, they hard charge until the final minute. Ultimately, it’s bookended by the same eerie and plaintively plinked piano that met us at the front door of the LP. 

I likely said a lot, but I’ll let them sum it up. Courtesy of their Bandcamp bio: D.C. punk band. Fuck 12. Abolish ICE. Now those are some Chill Parents, kiddos.

Tagged: chill parents

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