I was listening to Hot Blood’s forthcoming debut, No Kings, via the Google Music app on my phone last night. The app has this animation of three little equalizer bars that bounce up and down next to each song as an album plays. Damned if it didn’t look like those little bars were giving me the finger a couple of times. That pretty much sums up the attitude of No Kings.
Hot Blood are that rarest of Asbury Park commodities: A straight-ahead, hardcore punk band. Lead singer Mat Kiley pours his heart and soul into his delivery, and the result — combined with the relentless pounding delivered by rhythm section Charlie Schafer (bass) and Billy Straniero (drums) — is refreshingly aggressive. Guitarists Kiley and Alex Rosen pepper the hardcore barrage with just enough bluesy licks and garage-y leads to overcome some of the samey-ness that often plagues hardcore albums. And there’s a strain of humor that runs through the lyrics that keeps the listener smirking along with the band, even when the subject matter is our polarized political culture or class warfare.
No Kings opens with Rosen’s high-speed guitar, followed by Kiley’s up-from-the-gut growl on “Scott.” The album then careens through a series of standouts like “Hypocrite,” “You Can’t Hold Us Down” (which features a full-on rock and roll guitar solo from Kiley), “Fair and Balanced” (“What a crock of shit!”), and “Chloe.” After announcing, “Ever since I learned how to go fast / I left going slow in the past” on “Fast,” Kiley slows things down for about thirty seconds before slamming on the gas pedal for the rest of the album.
Like any record in this genre, No Kings has its share of under two-minute blasts, — “Your Band Sucks” comes in at about 58 seconds, and the title track is about a half-minute long — but the album really shines on the longer cuts. The hilarious “Don’t Be a Dick” (“What would Jesus do? / He wouldn’t be a dick!”) opens with some piercing guitar chords that reminded me of Fucked Up. “Real Bad Case” is a simple garage rocker about going out with friends and making bad decisions. The meta “Fillin’ Up the Set” is more than filler here as, again, Kiley reveals his sense of humor.
With the overall sound of No Kings – which is a throwback to traditional hardcore, albeit with some nods to rock thrown in — and the torrent of four-letter words in every song, it’s obvious that Hot Blood aren’t going for “pop punk” or “alt rock” 0r any of the more radio-friendly punk permutations. And it’s refreshing to hear something that sounds so un-calculated. As Mat Kiley said in an interview with Speak Into My Good Eye last year, “We write the tunes for ourselves and our friends first and foremost, because at the end of the day, if you wouldn’t go see your band play, why should anyone else want to?”
You should listen to this record. Then you should go see this band play. They’re pissed, but they still have a good time.
No Kings is coming via Asbury’s Little Dickman Records, and Hot Blood have a release show scheduled for Asbury Lanes on April 19th.