Admittedly, I was a bit taken aback when throwing on Fake Crab Records’ newest waxen offering. I was only seconds into No Justice, the lead track from the S/T Tokenized 7”, before realizing that the band is, essentially, the rebrand of the long-running, very much intact Baltimore punks Joe Biden. Despite unceremoniously dumping their namesake’s dead moniker in ample time to distance themselves from the DNC, they recently dropped a 7’’ courtesy of the decidedly authentic and surprisingly non-crustaceous folks at the inimitable local label.
On the heels of their Record Release at Charm City’s Holy Frijoles, it’s high time to acquaint yourself with the reassembled and wildly untameable crue that is Tokenized. The universally liked Jason Magid, Baltimore’s entrepid punk photographer has long been documenting the band and took all of the rad photos.
Before digging into Song of the Day “Simmer," I’ll first get to the (un)pleasantries by way of some backhanded gushing, as there are touchstones on this latest EP that have been cruelly misused by some as pejorative. So riddle me this: What came first, the Chain or the Egg? Though I’m loathe to play into this particular “know your meme” riddlebox, they straddle the line inasmuch as they attempt to render it obsolete.
Tokenized employ the trebly, fun-loving hysterics of the former while alternately remaining a deadly serious proposition, something that may cause consternation for those looking to readily dump a band into a given lane. Additionally, there are elements of the band’s presentation and aesthetic that recall the melodic corners of the “mysterious” Youth Attack catalog. As is on-brand for this particular bunch of rabble rousers, they happen to occupy a space that’s not so easily defined by anything other than the satisfactorily appropriate “hardcore punk.”
"Simmer" surely has moments that incorporate the blown out caterwauling and nihilistic aesthetics of Hoax, Gag, or even the more BL'AST!-obsessed early era of Annihilation Time. Still present are the squealing, Greg Ginn-esque washes of guitar, steamrolling rhythms, and an increased willingness to leave the cutting room floor a decidedly empty space. In their seemingly ongoing mission to pen songs sans subgenre borders, the policy seems to be “If it’s writ, it fits.”
Elsewhere, they let shine the freaknik side of their DNA, unleashing lurching tempos and cutting killer riffs off at the knees just as they set to implode. They waffle back and forth between an all out blitz of instrumental abuse and unexpected tack-ons, like the bass riff that’s essentially a bizarro world lead riff to “Paranoid” by Black Sabbath. There’s even the “condensed flesh” and clattering insanity of the Faith/Void split (you know which half). Diving further into said void, there's an unexpected bass break that bounces recklessly into the song’s most violent verse, should you choose to call it that.
Though it’s a sub-two minute rager, Simmer does everything except take its own advice, bucking errantly away from expectation until it reaches the boiling point. The terminus, here, if anything, is only because the song can’t survive any longer. Above any and all unhelpful RIYL touchstones, I hear distinct echoes of what is likely the endgame of accidental kismet. Tell me this doesn’t rip in a similar way to Cold Sweat’s 2004 stunner, Blinded, which, as a sidenote, is one of my favorite records. It seethes with a similar unhinged, urban angst and plays like a perfectly crafted blast of atonal isolationism.
Now that this reformed sonic Voltron fucks with both increasingly indispensable songwriting and unbridled intensity? Can’t mess with it. This is, to quote Texas legends Big Boys, “fun, fun, fun.” Glad they’re back. Now if only we could get the other Joe Biden to actually retire...