Mired in the muck of their ultraconservative state of Mississippi, Hattiesburg-based synth punks MSPAINT are a beacon of hope. They’re piercing through the bubble of shit, antiquated politics surrounding them by looking towards the future, while presenting a dystopia that is “post-American” – which also happens to be the title of their brilliant and outrageously frenetic debut record.
With a title suggestive of political angst, a record steaming hot with ferocity is expected. MSPAINT’s Post-American is certainly scalding, in delivery and sound at the least; however, the band’s messaging conveys an overwhelming hope for something better beyond our current mess. But to arrive at hope, listeners must first embrace destruction for life to spring anew.
In MSPAINT’s post-America, this decay materialises through an aged and unsightly digitised aesthetic. It permeates this entire collection of songs and even the visual components accompanying it, like its god-awful album cover, to establish a hypothetical, retro-futuristic wasteland where anxious visions of Y2K came to fruition. But amidst this warped portentous backdrop, the reassuring words barreling from the chest of DeeDee, the band’s bloodthirsty vocalist, uplift and salvage listeners from despair with a force conjured through love and authenticity.
Instances like lead single ‘Acid’ or explosive album opener ‘Information’ will twist and disfigure with a maiming deluge of synth-punk. However, rallying refrains like “Your spirit is true” from the latter will push the listener through the sonic meat grinder unscathed but for the callouses needed to press on and brave whatever obstacles lie ahead. On ‘Free From The Sun’, the band implores forgiveness “as a passageway” toward honesty, with honesty as “a sweet release from the concrete”. The aptly-titled ‘Titan of Hope’ is an eviscerating rap-rock number; however, it also reveals the record’s tender reason for being with sharp admissions that encourage resilience: “The hardest things to speak on are real / We’re not scared anymore…and this mindset is a Titan of hope.”
In the face of calamity, the entirety of Post-American is filled with these glass-half-full phrases, never corny, always inspiring. With such optimism almost always set against synth-driven hardcore punk, fury and optimism bite into each other like two serpents vying for dominion; but it is hope that prevails, with anger merely an underbelly.
His anger just beneath his tongue, the mononymous DeeDee nurtures his thoughts just before they burst through his ribcage. His true tone and tenor is positivity; however, rage-filled lines are locked and loaded, ready to tear through reductive systems, structures and culture, taking on the tyranny of organised religion, the coldness of technological saturation and the merciless perils of capitalism that lie at the heart of both. Through this ever-present hell, MSPAINT attack from a distinctly steadfast vantage point despite the slow-moving and untouched setting from which they hail. They urge listeners toward a radical change of their surroundings and themselves, moving them to think about what follows when the vapidness of American exceptionalism and the American dream is clear for all to see.
So what is the journey toward an equitable utopia, MSPAINT asks? This is a question that, in some shape or form, rests at the heart of every great hardcore band, and MSPAINT have the potential to enter that canon.
Post-American is one of the most refreshing punk records anyone will hear this year. They won’t immediately cater to hardcore diehards – their stylistic otherness and overt optimism won’t allow them – but MSPAINT’s deconstructive spirit and authenticity will endear the band to anyone who gives them a chance.
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