“Lowkey? Show Me the Body is for the freaks,” says frontman/banjoist Julian Cashwan Pratt of the experimental hardcore band Show Me the Body in an interview with Kerrang! last week. Upon listening to the singles for their new album Dog Whistle, this sounds like a bold claim. Singles “Camp Orchestra” and “Madonna Rocket,” though excellent, appear to be pretty typical fare coming from the New York City hardcore scene. However, within the context of the album, the singles serve a much larger purpose: They help to tell a story that, contrary to the singles’s political tones, is collaborative and personal, conveyed in a way that every listener can relate to it in someway.
Lead single “Camp Orchestra” begins the album with a bang, despite its own slow start. The first sounds of the track are a rumbling bass guitar and a twinkling, meandering banjo. They are the only instruments for the song’s first two minutes and ten seconds (the drums don’t even start until two minutes and 28 seconds into the song!), and that’s when the song begins to catch fire. Inspired by the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and their own Jewish heritage, Show Me the Body crafted a song that acutely describes the hardship and plight of their predecessors. The song is personal to the band while still remaining valuable and important to all listeners even if they have no personal connection to the subject matter.
While “Camp Orchestra” is more sonically typical of NYC hardcore, tracks like “Not for Love,” “Forks and Knives” and “USA Lullaby” stray far from the norm. For someone more accustomed to hardcore and punk music, these tracks will take some getting used to. Each song, especially “Not for Love,” pulls many of its defining elements from noise rock. “Not for Love” features a blown-out bass guitar reminiscent of an 808 and punishing vocals ranging from guttural grunts to piercing shrieks and everywhere in between.
No part of Dog Whistle is typical. The sounds that Show Me the Body explores have probably never used before on a hardcore record. “Badge Grabber” utilizes both muted quantized drum loops and live drumming for an effect that is both a breath of fresh air and suffocating. “USA Lullaby” distorts its instrumentals so far beyond their limits that you can almost hear each artifact of sound. This is all makes for a very exciting and challenging work, but the album’s crowning achievement, “Madonna Rocket,” is also its least daring.
“Madonna Rocket” is one of the most beautiful and touching hardcore songs ever created. That’s a bold claim, but the track is wholly worthy of such praise. On “Madonna Rocket,” Show Me the Body takes the inclusive and community-oriented lyrics and fast-paced, jagged instrumentals from youth crew legends like Gorilla Biscuits and Youth of Today and filters them through their twisted creative collective/ think tank known as Corpus. The result is a triumphant yet brutal track. Cashwan Pratt’s vocals take center stage over the rest of the band as he growls, “(W)hen I meet someone that’s good, I want to die with them / Dead friends, I still wanna say goodbye to them / Aside from me, Aside from them / All I have is family, I will die with them.”
With Dog Whistle, Show Me the Body aimed to create a community that the freaks could call home, and that they did. They also did so much more, creating an affecting album that is bound to resonate with all listeners in some capacity. At the very least, Dog Whistle will allow new listeners to access a world bigger than their own and give them a new perspective on community. Show Me the Body may be for the freaks, but it is also for everyone.