Every time I hear the name Drug Church, I can’t help but associate it with J Church: an incredible Bay Area punk band that came up in the early ’90s alongside Jawbreaker, Rancid, and Green Day, but failed to find success on the scale of those bands. This was a criminal oversight, of course, but in retrospect, it resulted in making J Church something more — not quite a legend, perhaps, but a shred of shared language spoken only by a small sect of serious, studied devotees.
I’d previously assumed that particular association was purely coincidental; an atavistic echo that was never intended by Drug Church, but invented by me. Now, though, I’m not so sure.
Let me present to you the new evidence that has caused me to question my old conclusion: those T-shirts.
In the video, I mean. Drug Church’s just-released song, “Unlicensed Hall Monitor,” comes accompanied by a clip in which an array of VHS-dubbed live-TV chaos is interspersed with recent performance footage culled from at least a couple different Drug Church shows. When you watch the video, pay extra-careful attention to the performance footage, to the band on stage, and look at those goddamn T-shirts. I’m pretty sure I missed a couple, but here’s what I caught:
Click on any of the links in the paragraph preceding this one and you’ll hear a song that should have been massive, but never made it, for whatever reason. These are the songs that spawn cults and drive missionaries to humiliating lengths in the hopes of converting the unenlightened. Furthermore, with one exception, all the music referenced on those T-shirts was released in the early ’90s, and the one exception (Cleveland’s Heart Attack Man, founded in 2013) sounds like a criminally overlooked early-’90s band.
And what does that sound like, exactly? Loud, downtuned, distorted guitars. Major-key choruses and obscenely catchy melodies sung with a combination of anger and disdain. Lo-fi production and a mix that pushes every instrument into the red.
That’s what Drug Church sound like, too. But … better? I dunno, man, it’s probably sacrilege, but the upcoming Drug Church LP, Cheer (on which “Unlicensed Hall Monitor” appears), is absolutely 100% perfect from beginning to end, whereas like, Copper Blue is not. Neither is Louder Than Love. I will talk to strangers on the street about Seaweed (I own that shirt, in fact, which means there are at least two still in existence) but no Seaweed album is as good as Cheer.
Now, I don’t wanna reduce Drug Church to nostalgists with great taste. Cheer is absolutely essential to this very moment in time. It doesn’t indulge in the apathy, irony, or empty sentimentality endemic to Gen-X; it is, instead, a furious thing that incinerates everything in its scope. I want to call it a concept album — and I’m pretty sure it is a concept album — but what’s the concept? Life under capitalism? One person’s awakening to human suffering? Whatever the subject, Drug Church frontman Patrick Kindlon attacks it with a literary lyrical acumen. The opening lines to “Unlicensed Hall Monitor” go as follows:
There’s a guy with a search history darker than a sea trench
Tellin’ you how to live
Closet, crawl space, attic full of skeletons
I’ve previously compared Kindlon to Craig Finn-via-Ray Cappo, and I won’t repeat myself here. You should click on that link, though, not to read what I wrote but to listen to those songs. Man, you should buy the album and just play it on a loop for a month and a half. If you’re anything like me, you won’t be able to stop yourself. Whether you hear all (or any) of my obscure reference points won’t make a damn bit of difference, I promise. This is potent stuff and it’s gonna knock out anyone who will listen. Drug Church deserve an audience of millions. They’ll get a cult. You in?
Cheer is out 11/02 via Pure Noise. Pre-order it here.
11/09 Scottsdale, AZ @ Pub Rock Live *
11/10 Anaheim, CA @ Chain Reaction *
11/11 Berkeley, CA @ 924 Gilman *
11/13 Seattle, WA @ Vera Project *
11/14 Portland, OR @ Black Water *
11/16 Denver, CO @ Hi Dive *
11/18 Chicago, IL @ Cobra Lounge *
11/19 Cleveland, OH @ Mahall’s *
11/20 Pontiac, MI @ Pike Room *
11/26 West Haven, CT @ The Cave ^
11/27 Boston, MA @ Great Scott ^
11/28 Brooklyn, NY @ Alphaville ^
11/29 Philadelphia, PA @ Kung Fu Necktie ^
11/30 Richmond, VA @ Strange Matter ^
12/01 Chapel Hill, NC @ Local 506 ^
12/02 Atlanta, GA @ Masquerade ^
12/03 Gainesville, FL @ Loosey’s ^
12/04 Orlando, FL @ Will’s Pub ^
12/06 Dallas, TX @ Three Links %
12/07 Austin, TX @ Mohawk Inside %
* w/ Gouge Away, Heart Attack Man
^ w/ Gouge Away, Seattle’s New Gods
% w/ Seattle’s New Gods