It’s important that you understand, right off the rip, that I am hardcore music idiot. My relationship with hardcore is like Potter Stewart’s relationship with obscenity; I know it when I see it (look it up, nerd!), but I am not literate in the sub-genres, regionality, or any other subtextual flavor that might help someone determine what it actually means when you read that Substance Control’s self-titled album is a hardcore one. Shit, that could mean anything from Pennywise to Fucked Up to Earth Crisis. Does it help that each of these bands came to mind at different points during the eight-song, 11-minute run? Does it hurt that those are probably the only hardcore bands I can name (I can also name Snapcase, but that is because I am from Western New York).
So, it’s fast and it’s loud, what else can I tell you? Well, what elevates Substance Control to my ear is its willingness to play with the more melodic elements of the genre while also indulging in what sounds a little scummier and formalist. There are genuine hooks on tunes like “Hazard Payday” (which only gets to 90 seconds because it deploys it’s sunny, catchy chorus four times compared to its two verses) and “Ode to You” (which, while not as chanty as the Pennywise “Bro Hymn” your younger brother used to like, finds the same strength in community that so often lifts the most form-committed punk music), while stompy stuff like “Lukewarm Feelings” or “Texas, 2021” feels more like red meat for the base, gasoline for the circle-pit punchers.
With music this direct, it would be a swerve if the lyrics were obfuscated, but Substance Control take the more traditional approach. The vibe here swings between “righteous anger” and “community will destroy the pigs” pretty much song-to-song, but what sells it is less the content and more the urgency of the delivery. Put another way: it’s hardcore singin’ baby. Broadly speaking, it’s close to the Minor Threat brand of politicking in that it feels less surface and more informed that your garden variety angry person, but you don’t need a PHd to grasp the concepts off “shit’s fucked, yo.”
So here we are, at the end of the review, and I remain unsure if I’ve accurately explained how Substance Control is worth your time and attention. Best I can do here is lean on the person: This strikes me, a hardcore moron, as the album that serves as both a reminder to the true heads about what is meaningful and urgent about this style of punk music, and as an onramp to dorks like me who prefer beanie hat and bad haircut music. Substance Control offer a big tent, and invite you to circle up and mosh, consensually.
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