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Album Review: Cerebral Ballzy - Cerebral Ballzy

The New York hardcore scene that once was home to influential groups such as Agnostic Front, Cro-Mags, and Reagan Youth is now responsible for the birth of Cerebral Ballzy – a band that have single handedly revived the sound and energy of 80s' hardcore, while leaving its message firmly in the grave.

Cerebral Ballzy are everything Black Flag were laughing at when they wrote ‘Six Pack’ and ‘Wasted’. The sincere socio-political frustrations that propelled the musical velocity of bands like Minor Threat have been replaced by concerns that fail to stretch beyond dollar beer, puking it up, getting laid, eating pizza, and puking that up as well (on that note - their name derives from the “ballsy” rescue of a slice of pizza tossed on a train track, in case you were wondering).

Lack of substance now established, it must also be stressed that these guys are anything but bland. They play fast, tight, and with total conviction in the lack of fucks they give about almost everything. Song titles like ‘Drug Myself Dumb’, ‘Don’t Tell Me What to Do’ and ‘Cutting Class’ speak for themselves, and where not particularly caring for school or the police are not uncommon mantras to be captured in double time and ragged riffs, the lack of seriousness with which they are executed makes their style laudable if not always endearing. This is, after all, the band whose début 7” ‘You’re Idle’ came packaged in hand-stenciled sleeves made from grip-tape because a) they bought a lifetime’s supply of the stuff and didn’t know what else to do with it, and b) it’ll scratch the fuck out of every other record in your collection.

Whether it is a collective nostalgia for the raw brand of 80s' hardcore that has sparked everybody’s interest or not, Cerebral Ballzy certainly seem to have the industry behind them. Not only was their record produced by Jamie Ford of The Bronx fame (who has also worked with Trash Talk), but the artwork came courtesy of Raymond Pettibon – younger brother of Gregg Ginn and artistic driving force behind Black Flag/SST Records.

Unsurprisingly, vocalist Honor Titus is the one we end up turning to in order to make sense of the relentlessly fast-paced and chaotic arrangements. As the music pushes us from behind, he drags us forwards by the hand. He slurs and strangles his way through the album, swinging from bouts of frantic hyperventilation on tracks like ‘SK8 All Day’, to moments of slack jawed vowel-dragging on tracks like ‘Drug Myself Dumb’, which peg him as more of a West Coast surfer than an East Coast skater. There’s something in his lax lyrics that, for all their insipidity, are entertaining in a petulant, frank sort of way. “Don’t wanna deal with the consequences of being young and reckless” Titus moans in opening song ‘On The Run’, before going on to sing about being young and reckless for the rest of the album. The only thing you’ll catch Cerebral Ballzy moping over is how growing older has robbed them of the thrills of underage drinking.

In comparison to their 80s' predecessors (if we can call them that), Cerebral Ballzy appear to be all attitude and no substance. They don’t really have anything to say, which stamps a shelf life on this release at least, and this emptiness can bring them to the edge of parody – also see their t-shirt logo; a skeleton giving the finger (to “the rules”, presumably) and wearing a t-shirt with a ‘Hard to the Coors’ badge on it. They haven’t tipped over the edge yet, however, they do bring one very crucial element to the table, and they bring it in excess – fun. Remember that? Hardcore has always been a platform for purging aggression and voicing concerns (of which you will need the lyric sheet to identify), but can also come hand in hand with strong ethical positions, sometimes drawing its own parameters by militantly pushing vegan and straight edge lifestyles, and beating on kids who don’t take a part in that. This isn’t an issue with Cerebral Ballzy. Nothing is. They are synonymous with partying, and will do so with absolutely anybody who shows an interest. To get the full experience, see them live. Bring pizza. Drink beer. And don’t even think about taking them seriously.


Emma Garland

Alter The Press!