Thought Control, Shock to the System (Government Check Music/New Morality Zine, 2020)

New Jersey’s Thought Control has straight up usurped my stereo.

Though Garden State hardcore band’s recent EP, Shock to the System, clocks in at well under 10 minutes, my freshly minted cassette courtesy of Government Check Music and New Morality Zine is likely already showing signs of wear.

To make matters all the more impressive, the whole thing is written and performed by one person.

Shockingly, the EP is still brimming with personality despite the sort of singular vision these projects tend to require.

Now rounded out as a tangible band thanks to members of Sunstroke, Electric Flesh, and The Dividing Line; let’s hope this gets its due in the live setting sooner than later. Shout out to Grey Gordon’s perfect write up of the band’s on Bandcamp. I don’t have much to add but I’m sure as shit here to try. 

After some dissonant In on the Kill Taker-feedback, the band’s opening salvo darts excitedly outta the gate, readily dishing a rabid and taut variant on traditional '80s US hardcore. The key word here is brevity and the 5-track EP finds the band trimming the fat with gnashed teeth.

Lyrically, it’s laid pretty damn bare, lobbing razor sharp barbs aimed at the opiated masses and Nazis with a daring verbal assault. Moments like the halftime, stomping bits that close us out help bookend their trad hardcore with a punk primitivism that pays dividends in every decade. 

Second track “Clorox in the Water” is an even more condensed version of the band’s streamlined classic sound, albeit with updated and contemporary flourishes.

There’s a fleeting but noted echo at the song’s tail end that tips its traditionalist and manic cap at contemporaries Loose Nukes, Rat Cage, and Armor as much as it does the more crisp and cleaned up Restraining Order or Mil-Spec.

I’m forever a mark for hardcore like this… unbothered by subgenre signifiers and timeless, regardless of the timestamp. 

“Sniff Out the Nazi” is perhaps the most feral sounding song on the blazing collection, flying by in a sub minute blitz of one note, perfect hardcore punk. As furious as it is still somehow catchy, singer John K. leaves the poetics in other hands. Instead, he unleashes “...get out of my head, you Nazi fuck” with the sort of venom reserved for such foes.

Elsewhere, “We Don’t Need You” is another masterclass in rollicking hardcore punk, building this rager with a riff akin to Feel the Darkness-era Poison Idea or early Fucked Up. Thought Control has clearly absorbed four decades of hardcore but has gladly returned to the well from which the whole damn thing grew. 

Closer and title track “Shock to the System/Outro” also walks a straight and hurried line back to early '80s, careening violently and alternating between an “all go/no slow” policy and a sinister, sneering punk lurch. It’s not reinventing the wheel, it’s irresponsibly throwing that motherfucker into traffic.

Thought Control aren’t content with a simple backward glance, they’re keeping the torch for trad hardcore alit in much the same way Government Warning, Career Suicide, and Direct Control did in the early ‘oughts. This ain’t the past. It’s the future and it’s right now. 

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