The cover of “Dog Whistle,” featuring a NYC warehouse roof painted with SMTB’s coffins (corpus.nyc)
The trio’s latest album builds upon hardcore tradition by bringing together a glorious mix of genre fusing noise-punk
Show Me The Body frontman Julian Pratt (Viki Young/Flickr)
Show Me The Body has been front and center in the New York Hardcore scene since the release of their debut LP “Body War”, which blended punk, folk, hip-hop and noise rock much less abrasively than their later releases. But the thing that really sets this band apart is the fact that their front man Julian Pratt wields a banjo and hits the strings in a primal fashion, letting out ear piercing power chords mixed with amp feedback along with a considerable amount of reverb and overdrive. “Dog Whistle” is their latest album, and it delivers all of these things more wonderfully than ever before.
Over the past three years since the release of “Body War,” the group has spent time building a collective of New York City musicians and artists called Corpus. The collective was established to bring together likeminded artists by playing shows and providing an open space for musicians to create regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation. “Dog Whistle” embraces community more than previous releases.
The opening track “Camp Orchestra,” evaluates the belief that “work sets you free,” a phrase displayed by the Nazis over the front gate at Auschwitz-Birkenau in Germany. During the second half of the song, lead vocalist Julian Pratt yells, “I am a doll upon a string / They pull it, I have to sing” denouncing the idea of reformation through work and posing that institutions control the way in which people process their environment.
SMTB rejects institutions and systems built upon control throughout the first half of “Dog Whistle.” Songs such as “Badge Grabber” and “Drought” serve as cries against institutional racism and gentrification.
SMTB’s rejection of these ideas is timely, considering the current president and administration. Although this isn’t something entirely new to their music, the way in which they do it on “Dog Whistle” is much more focused and succinct. “Body War” focused more on anger against the institutions which hold power without offering a concrete solution.
Perhaps the most profound reference to friendship on the album comes with the spoken word track “Die For the Earth to Live.” On this track the band’s lead vocalists says, “Friends gone, this is for them / If we die together or apart, don’t cry / We gonna see each other again.” This is where the meaning of the record begins to solidify. “Dog Whistle” is a cry for unity and fearless opposition; it seeks to console the listener and remind them that they are not alone. Again, the subject matter of this album couldn’t be more timely.
This is what makes “Dog Whistle” SMTB’s best production to date. It still has the elements which made “Body War” such an invigorating listen— wonderfully heavy breakdowns, faced paced drums, drones of feedback, jangly distorted banjo riffs, and the primal barks of Pratt. The difference is that on “Dog Whistle” the songwriting is a bit more simplistic and traditional, yet it gets to the point and is very direct.
The absolute rawness and almost belligerent nature of the instrumentation harkens back to the No-Wave genre which blossomed in New York in the 1970s with bands such as DNA, but is still incredibly original— the difference being that Pratt is extremely concise with his lyrics on “Dog Whistle;” he has a clear message they are trying to get across and he does it outstandingly. Because of this new element alone, the band has improved tremendously since “Body War.”