I have this ongoing argument with a lot of my friends. Indie rockers, prog nerds, hipsters, contrarians, noise music enthusiasts… for some reason they don’t appreciate current hardcore punk. Sure, the early stuff like Black Flag and Minor Threat was groundbreaking and great they say, but now it’s just people doing the same thing over and over. As if there’s some kind of ‘progression’ in music that’s gonna bring it all to perfection some day. As if they wouldn’t flip their shit for a local band that sounds exactly like Can, or a shitty touring band just because it has some wanker thief of singer songwriter folk cliches like Will Oldham or Bill Callahan.
I get so angry at their hypocrisy and ignorance the only thing that calms me down is blasting music like the 7 inch I just got from Male Patterns loud as my stereo goes for days. Because regardless of whether my friends appreciate it, shit like this to me is some of the most truly honest and authentic music you’ll ever hear, local or otherwise.
That being said, much as I love local hardcore punk, I’m in no sense as versed in it as I should be. I can’t tell you which micro-genre Male Patterns may or may not belong to, whether they’re post crust, pre-grind, powerviolence, etc. I don’t know the difference between a break beat and a whatever else the terminology may be, and don’t give a shit (though as an unpaid but self styled critic perhaps I should).
The most obvious influence a poser like myself immediately hears is early eighties Black Flag (Damaged/Everything Went Black/My War period). Both the sludgey off the cuff riffs of Mike Moak and the angry, raspy vocals of Brendan Halayko unmistakeably invoke that classic period of American hardcore. It’s also clear that Male Patterns has taken cues from dozens (if not hundreds) of local hardcore punk bands both old and new like Police Line and Devoid of Faith. And of course there’s at least some influence from After the Fall, the renowned decades strong local band that guitarist Mike Moak is the frontman, vocalist and guitarist for. There are deep histories mixed in here that whole books could be written about but never will because just a few notes of this split ep convey all the beauty and brutality of an ever evolving yet always true to its roots hardcore punk aesthetic and immediacy.
The first track on side B of this 7 inch (or the first track in general for those of you on bandcamp) is proof positive of what I’m talking about. “Handcuffed to the grid and I’m about to crack, Our lives are micro chipped and there’s no going back… AUTOMATIC!” The world is fucked and so are we. There’s no way out all, you can do is scream into the void. And that’s exactly what they’re doing.
All tracks share a common aesthetic (a common theme with punk bands — songs sound the same and fuck you if you don’t like em); full on starts segueing into rhythmic build ups and take downs, chugging riffs and shouted single word or phrase choruses.
Vocalist Brendan Halayko (who I recognize from his days back with local punk legends the Neutron Rats that we were too drunk to remember seeing) has an idiosyncratic, full throated raspy half shout that conveys grit, anger, and despair in full measure. Regardless of whether or not he sets out to sound original or idiosyncratic, his voice has a rugged angry survivor quality that I haven’t heard the likes of anywhere else (but is clearly influenced by hardcore legends like Henry Rollins).
Self Abuse is lyrically quite similar to a Keith Morris Black Flag song. Straightforward, hopeless, depressing, and kranky as the sky is big.
Fear Mongering is a screed against anyone and everyone that makes life into one paranoid fantasy about terrorism. Fact is danger is everywhere, terrorism’s just one more guise; “A thousand ways to the grave/we’ve evolved so quickly/but are so easily afraid”. It’s all too easy to play on people’s fears to get them to stay inside, live like mice and just consume. But if you fall prey to that, it’s like you’re already dead. Instead, Male Patterns tells us to “Live your life!”
When’s all said and done, to me the greatest thing about the kind of classic, ceaseless hardcore music that’s been going on since the late 70s is its self aware disposability and lack of (endless fight against) pretention. The ultimate nihilistic denial of any sort of progression in a musical form that stays true to its roots instead of trying to have individualized gimmicks that shows how special the group you’re listening to is, the ceaseless recycling and repetition that says ‘this is our music and we’re playing it cause we love it. We don’t want your money or your fame, we just want to express ourselves the same way our heroes have for years for ourselves and our friends who all feel similarly.’
And Male Patterns is yet another in this hardcore grind of American punk bands; they stand out from their peers in a way I really appreciate in their complete lack of trying to be ‘he-man’ music or show off how tough they are (a characteristic of more adolescent and foolish ambitious young punk bands), and what each of their individual talents brings to the band as veterans of dozens of other great punk rock groups that wanted nothing more than to write and play great music, and stop as soon as it stops feeling right and starts feeling like work. And in all likelihood, when this inevitably happens to yet another great punk band and sadly we have no more Male Pattern music to review, we’ll probably hear about Brendan, Mike, KC, and Dan’s new bands. And the vicious cycle continues. You either get it and you love it or you don’t and you never will.