Survival Mode, the latest album from Kokomo group the Sorely Trying Days, is a reminder that DIY punk isn't dead, after all. These guys sound like an early American hardcore band that's slowed down slightly and has actually had a modicum of meaningful practice on its instruments. Lovingly known as the STDs, their songs are indeed infectious -- in a good, non-pustule-producing way.
The opening track, "Everybody's Bitch," starts out with a catchy, well-rounded bass theme by John Rhinestone that's flawlessly picked up by the distorted guitar of Adam Jones. The vocals, which are articulated by all three members, are energetically shouted in the tradition of modern hardcore such as Verse. Lyrics are simple and succinct on every track.
"In Control," includes a slight stoner-rock sensibility with its six-string that ends up being repeated intermittently throughout the album. Drummer Alex Jones does his job well on the drums, incorporating lots of crash symbol in his plain 4/4 beats. Like the best punk rock drummers, he doesn't try to show off. He remains comfortable and confident, especially in his element on title track "Survival Mode."
Perhaps the best song on the album, it starts off with crackly guitar and heavy bass to create a tension that is quickly smashed with the desperately screamed, "I wanna live fast so I can die slow." This track embodies the frustration, rebellion and simplicity that defined punk rock at its inception: a rare treat in today's world of radio-ready pop-punk.
"The Music has Stopped" has a swaggering beat that contrasts with the bellowing, ominous vocals to lend a bit of bounce to the heavy stuff, sort of like that enormous, tattooed guy at the bar who accidentally compresses your vertebrae while giving you a friendly pat on the back.
Although a band like this could easily churn out 10 very similar songs and still have a successful album, the STDs do just enough thoughtful experimentation to keep it interesting. "Destroyed in Seconds" is blatantly angry and rather dark, while the equally dark "It Always Takes a Lot" utilizes ringing guitar and plenty of fuzzy bass to keep the listener's attention span focused and engrossed. The instrumental "Red Turned Green" picks up the tempo and the mood with circular picking and full tom fills that could easily fit in with a '70s hard rock band.
The album closes perfectly with "Stay Out," a brash, memorable anthem of dissatisfaction. While this is certainly not the album to listen to if you're into highly technical hardcore, the fellows of Sorely Trying Days play their unique, uncomplicated style with plenty of outraged force. Survival Mode would be a good starter album for someone interested in the early American hardcore sound - t has that same sense of raw resentment, but isn't quite so off-putting to the unseasoned ear.