Truth Cult, Walk the Wheel (Pop Wig Records, 2023)

I’ve long been singing the praises of Baltimore’s Truth Cult.

Arriving as a damn near fully formed proposition on 2019’s masterful S/T EP, the soulful punks have crafted an all-timer.

Hometown bias aside, the all around level up that was 2020’s Off Fire was rad, but their latest full length typifies the term “required listening.” Much like their sophomore long player, the newly minted Walk the Wheel, is being handled courtesy of Pop Wig Records. The Charm City label’s tightly curated discography reads like a veritable best of the decade “listicle.” Worth a deep dive… 

As far as dichotomies go, Truth Cult manages a strange and rare alchemy, managing to be both impenetrably mystic and warmly soul baring. It’s a rare trick, indeed, and ultimately one that sets them far outside the modern crop of punk bands. With a sound that both plumbs the depths of and playfully defies the traditions of rock music, I suppose it’s apt to say the truth is usually somewhere in between. 

I’m not typically one to wax poetically on aesthetics, but Truth Cult damn near demands it. I'd be remiss not to mention the gorgeous piece that adorns the cover.  Again working with wildly talented artist David Van, it conjures a reverence for antiquity and symbology as much as it does an impenetrable sense of cool. It’s a striking, evocative, and challenging image that’s befitting of a group so sonically adventurous.

In sight as they are in sound, the band seems to have an artistic  inclination to help and heal each other through music. Lest you think I’m being hyperbolic, stop reading here and just hit play. 

More so than ever before, Truth Cult lives in myriad worlds at once. Though they certainly spring from the same grand traditionalism that binds DIY music together, there’s just simply more at play and at stake here than most bands… it’s propulsive, rockin’, profound, and welcoming. Still replete with the same touchstones, there’s a healthy dose of DC punk and hardcore.

I’ve always loved the band’s proto-punk style willingness to live in the wilderness, so to speak. Maybe it’s because they’re also impossibly dear to me, but I hear echoes of Pere Ubu and The Fire Party. Both unbothered by subgenre expectations, Truth Cult embodies that same sense of boundless energy/boundary erasure.

Just shy of a three year gap since their previous output, Walk the Wheel is a staggeringly ambitious and rewarding listen from the jump. In keeping with the DIY cultist charm of the cover art, the BMore soothsayers have opened their third eye for this one. Let’s get into it. 

Though just north of a minute, opener “Squeeze” immediately showcases the brilliant vocal trade off that’s at the band’s heart. Emily Ferrara and Paris Roberts somehow command an absolutely rollicking rager built on bent chords and rubbery, dexterous rhythms. This fucking rules, y’all. For fans of Truth Cult’s short, sharp shocks of blast, see also the late album track “Ain’t Rubbin’ No Shoulders.” 

In a just, or at least parallel universe, “Resurrection” is ruling 1993 alt radio waves the world over. Genre signifiers be damned, this is tightly wound yet shambolic rock and roll that should appeal to fans of Seaweed and their modern acolytes. By that, I mean it should appeal to all of us.

Truth Cult have never sounded so big and immediate. Elsewhere, “Heavy Water” and “Clearskin” round off the album singles. The former boasts a hypnotic lurch, whereas the latter lives on a blazing tempo, all killer drum fills and a tightrope live sound.

Though the album tackles head-on a litany of deadly serious lyrical bents, “Awake, Asleep” is, perhaps, the most sonically joyous moment on the album. The parting moments of the song can only be described as celebration rock. Again, the undeniable soul on display can’t be faked. The chemistry at the core of the band, now a five piece, is unmistakable. 

“Naked in the End” is a highwater mark among many. It finds Roberts stretching the limits of the vocal range for the LP’s most dynamic performance. To these ears, there’s a downturned strain of melancholia to this one that only adds another dimension to what they’ve accomplished this go round. 

Simply put, “Medicine” is a fucking masterpiece. Nearly dispensing altogether with the very idea of song structure, it’s a glorious melange of their myriad aural weaponry. I hear flecks of hometown legends Lungfish, notably their classic run from “Artificial Horizon” through “Love Is Love.” It’s a brooding and experimental moodpiece that almost warrants its own album of sonic children. 

Photo: Skylar Watkins 

Walk the Wheel is an album, sure. It’s also a testament to  fragility, vulnerability, communion, and the healing power of  rock and roll. 

Truth Cult is recruiting. Donate your soul. 

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