It seems as if every hardcore band these days sounds like a Minor Threat tribute group, copping the legendary D.C. punks’ anti-establishment rants and straight-edge, do-it-yourself aesthetic. But with Zulu, the Wrangler Brutes manage to escape this stagnation, creating a thrash album with a classic sound that’s still new and exciting. Featuring former members of hardcore group Born Against and production by Steve Albini, Zulu is humorous and intelligent, featuring Andy Coronado’s visceral guitar work coupled with Sam McPheeters’s atypical lyrics about Ariel Sharon and a homosexual president.

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Along with a few other notable exceptions, it is McPheeters’s divergence from the woe-is-me tone and shallow political lyrics that dominate the current thrash scene that distinguishes this album from the rest. Zulu’s highlights include “Forty Five Dollars,” the hardcore genre’s first protest over the rising cost of gas, as well as “Management Sheen,” a diatribe against worthless cubicle-dwelling managers.

Despite the band’s origins, Zulu doesn’t really sound like a hardcore album — it’s more like a combination of different elements from different genres, an amalgam of post-rock and hardcore. That’s the appeal of the Wrangler Brutes’ particular brand of brutality: It’s perfect for the purists and original enough to please listeners on the cusp of the genre.

 

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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