How long does an album have to be to qualify as an album? The self-titled debut from the New York punk band Krimewatch is 12 minutes long. I can name plenty of EPs that are longer than that. I can name plenty of songs that are longer than that — songs from punk bands, even. Krimewatch has nine songs, and four of them originally showed up on other records. With all that in mind, Krimewatch should barely register. It should be slight and discardable, one more Bandcamp punk release in a sea of them. Instead, Krimewatch sounds colossal. With a record like this, what matters isn’t how long the album is, or how many songs are on it. It’s how much fury and intensity you can get across. Krimewatch get a whole fucking lot of it across.
Punk and hardcore are genres full of fractured, intersecting sub-scenes; you have to be fluent in unspoken languages to know where one micro-scene ends and another begins. But that’s not the case with Krimewatch. With minor adjustments, the band’s self-titled album could’ve come out at any point in about the last 40 years. It’s hard, rudimentary punk rock, about as direct as a brick to the face. If there’s a particular era that Krimewatch recall, it’s the early mid-’80s days of New York hardcore — back when hardcore hadn’t yet become its own genre, when it was still a starker, meaner, tougher, more spartan offshoot of punk rock. There’s no metal or crust or tough-guy grandstanding in what Krimewatch do. There are hardcore-style breakdowns, but the band lurches in and out of them so quickly that they sound natural within their songs, not like the obligatory “everybody mosh harder now” live-show signal.
Singer Rhylli Ogiura sings in Japanese sometimes, but other than the odd bellowed phrase, it’s not always immediately clear which language is which. The actual words are hard to pick out, but she barks hard enough that you could understand the basic point of what she was singing even if she came from another planet. Ogiura grew up in the US, but she was born in Japan, and she says that she sings in Japanese in part to challenge cultures of submissiveness and servility. It’s a choice that also draws invisible lines to Japan’s own history of chaotic, frenetic hardcore. And there’s a slapdash immediacy in Krimewatch’s music that sounds a bit like Japanese hardcore. But it’s sharper and more stripped-down than what I’ve heard from Japanese hardcore bands, and Ogiura isn’t a wild, off-kilter presence like so many Japanese hardcore singers. She’s strong and commanding, spitting out her words with a sense of swagger that feels distinctly New York.
Krimewatch are working within an older tradition, but they make it sound urgent and vital and instinctive, like the sound they’re making is the only sane response to an insane world. They aren’t alone in that. Right now, there’s a whole world of intense young DIY punk and hardcore bands, bands who tour the same basements and dive bars, who exist outside the economy and regular circuit of indie labels and festivals and not-quite-as-divey bars. Many of these bands are dominated by women, or people of color, or women of color. Plenty of these bands have webs of connections to one another, too; Krimewatch guitarist Sean Joyce used to play in Ajax and Coughing Fit, while bassist Emma Hendry plays in Hotheads, and Hendry’s twin sister sings for the great Boston band Firewalker. You can fall into this web of bands and lose entire days to Bandcamp, making these different connections. I don’t know whether Krimewatch are the best of these bands; best seems almost like an arbitrary distinction in a scene like this. But I do know that their album is kicking my ass right now.
Krimewatch is out now on Lockin’ Out. Stream it below.
Other albums of note out this week:
• A Perfect Circle’s long-awaited return Eat The Elephant.
• Ganser’s spartan post-punk debut Odd Talk.
• DRINKS’ second psych-pop team-up Hippo Lite.
• Kimbra’s bugged-out pop opus Primal Heart.
• Lord Huron’s contemplative folk-rocker Vide Noir.
• Exitmusic’s dream-pop breakup album Recognitions.
• Melvins’ two-bass experiment Pinkus Abortion Technician.
• John Maus’ experimental pop companion album Addendum.
• Hot Chip frontman Alexis Taylor’s solo LP Beautiful Things.
• Peacers/Sic Alps leader Mike Donovan’s solo move How To Get Your Record Played In Shops.
• Locate S,1’s jazz-influenced bedroom-popper Locate S,1.
• Sting and Shaggy’s improbable collaboration 44/876.
• Gang Of Four’s Complicit EP.