Cruelster Riot Boys

Lumpy Records
18th June 2021

Michael's Pick

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Format Info

LP - black vinyl

Actually gutting myself at this burning skip of a punk record.
Second 12” from this Cleveland band. They share members with Perverts Again, Bulsch, and Roobydocks, so if you’re following that scene this is already on your “to-buy” list, and rightly so. This group of people is making some of the most innovative, interesting, and contemporary-sounding punk I’ve heard, and Riot Boys is an essential piece of the puzzle. However, even if you can hear how interesting, important, and great it is, it will still try your patience. That’s because, while other parts of the punk scene try to create a kind of punk (or, more broadly, liberal) utopia, Cruelster engage with the shit the rest of us do our best to ignore, and it’s fucking ugly. Nowhere is that clearer than on the lengthy sample that starts the album. The narrator reads a letter to the editor of a Captain America comic book, and as the letter unfolds we gradually understand the writer is a nut. The letter continues to get weirder until it culminates in a series of death threats against the editors. Of a fucking Captain America comic. This is the perfect segue into “Crisis in Local Government Part III,” whose chorus (insofar as you can call anything in a Cruelster song a chorus) is “I want to see American Sniper / I want to see Bradley Cooper as Chris.” While their music is jagged, awkward, and interesting, what’s unsettling about Cruelster is how they dig deep into this mentality, pushing past the Fox News caricature and getting at the mundane—and human—thought processes behind it. It’s a place most punks won’t go, and for that reason it’s worth going there. That Cruelster marry this aesthetic to weird, interesting, and powerful music is either the cake or the icing, depending on your perspective.

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