Jivebomb Are Making The Leap

Steve Levy

Jivebomb Are Making The Leap

Steve Levy

It happens fast. You can watch it happen. Hardcore bands don’t usually start off fully formed. If you see a band early enough in its lifecycle, that band can seem nervous and tentative — partly because of the band members themselves and partly because hardcore audiences usually aren’t willing to fully go off for a band until that band become familiar. But when a band plays out enough, it can transform into an absolute beast so quickly that it can leave your head spinning. Just in the past year or two, we’ve seen that happen again and again — with Gel, Speed, Zulu, Scowl, Pain Of Truth, tons of others. Right now, we’re seeing it happen with Jivebomb.

Baltimore’s Jivebomb released their demo in September 2021, so they’ve officially been a band for less than two years now. Unless I’m missing something, they’ve got a grand total of 12 songs to their name. You could play their entire discography in less than 15 minutes. Jivebomb’s whole style is elemental hardcore punk — short, fast, primal minute-long songs that display a whole lot of ferocity without even a whiff of pretension. Thousands upon thousands of bands have played that style of hardcore over the decades. It’s relatively easy to make that kind of music, but to stand out, you need to bring some serious charisma.

The first time I saw Jivebomb was last year in Richmond, opening for Baltimore OGs Angel Du$t. The last time I saw Jivebomb was last weekend in Richmond, once again opening for Baltimore OGs Angel Du$t. In the year between those two sets, Jivebomb took a huge leap. When I saw them last year, Jivebomb were fun, but they were clearly still finding their legs. The crowd didn’t move around much for them, and they didn’t seem to expect the crowd to go off for them. When they came back this past weekend, that dynamic had completely shifted.

Jivebomb have been putting in the work. They’ve been getting their reps, playing in front of bigger and bigger crowds. In October, they released Primitive Desires, their blistering debut EP. Earlier this year, they played Baltimore’s Disturbin’ The Peace fest, the big return show for Angel Du$t leader Justice Tripp’s legendary crew Trapped Under Ice. They also played the huge Flatspot World show in Brooklyn — the showcase for the thriving label that’s also got Speed and Scowl and End It on its roster. This past week, Turnstile returned to Baltimore to play a last-second small-venue show at the Ottobar, making the best possible use of a night off from their arena tour with Blink-182. For that Baltimore show, Turnstile picked Jivebomb as their openers. If you’re playing shows like that, you have to know what you’re doing. Jivebomb know what they’re doing.

When Jivebomb came back to Richmond this past weekend, they played the outdoor patio behind a restaurant, and the vibe was extremely pleasant and welcoming but also laid-back. Bands played under a plastic tent, with Christmas lights strung overhead, like the least formal wedding reception you’ve ever seen. An outdoor booth sold commendably cheap drinks. The food smelled incredible. This was a great place to be, but it didn’t have that feeling of pent-up danger that a great hardcore show can sometimes bring. Openers Destructo Disk, a local trio who play charmingly sloppy punk, got a warm reception, but they didn’t exactly turn that patio into a war zone.

When Jivebomb came out, things changed instantaneously. Bodies started moving. Singer Kat carried herself with a self-assurance that she didn’t have a year ago. The band was tight and locked-in, and they brought enough presence to charge the air. Jivebomb’s own songs aren’t full-room singalongs yet — not in Richmond, anyway — but their cover of the Agent Orange classic “Bloodstains” sure is. Jivebomb aren’t reinventing any wheels, but I could say the same thing about a band like Gel, and Gel are justifiably huge now. A year from now, Jivebomb could be crushing things just as hard.

Life’s Question, now based in Philadelphia, came onstage soundchecking with Van Halen and Led Zeppelin riffs, and the little bit that I saw of them was awesome — one of those rare situations where a bunch of seriously gifted musicians care more about making hard-bounce mosh music than about showing the world that they’re seriously gifted musicians. But I had a sudden situation come up, and I missed most of Life’s Question and all of Angel Du$t. These things happen. It was worth the trip just to see Jivebomb. If you get a chance to see them at this crucial stage, you should take it.

Anklebiter – “Pearl”

Is that a fucking tambourine? It is, right? That shit’s wild. The northeast straight-edge band Anklebiter sound perfectly strong when they’re in caffeinated-jackhammer mode, but when they open things up, when that I-think-it’s-a-tambourine comes in, the potential suddenly feels limitless. I can’t imagine what it takes to scream that final line — “Watching someone I love die! Before! My! Eyes!” — while your friend is shaking a tambourine a few feet away, or maybe while you’re shaking a tambourine, but I’m delighted that Anklebiter have figured out how to do that. Hardcore can be such a regimented genre, but it’s so cool when one minor decision can feel like an absolute out-of-nowhere stroke of genius. [From To Live And Withstand EP, out now on Sunday Drive Records.]

Envision – “Dawn Of A New Age”

Hardcore used to be so serious. In the ’90s, bands would pass out pamphlets and make impassioned speeches between songs. That doesn’t really happen anymore, but a few present-day bands — Magnitude, Broken Vow, One Step Closer — still bring some of that earnest intensity, and it always makes me happy. Envision, a straight-edge band that’s somehow simultaneously based in Philadelphia and South Florida, belong in that category. There’s real metallic bite to their riffage, and they’re not afraid to go full-on power-shred in some lightly surprising moments. But everything else — the bits of seasick melody peeking through here and there, the slightly terrified quality in the singer’s scream — takes me right back to the musty VFW Halls where I had some formative experiences. I know that’s not the intent here — there’s no way any of these guys are as old as me — but the time-machine effect is real. [From The Gods That Built Tomorrow, out now on From Within Records.

Fairytale – “Submerged In Water”

I almost stepped on a raccoon once. Years ago, I lived across the street from Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn, and a whole lot of raccoons lived there. There was a warehouse up the street from my apartment, and I don’t know what they were throwing out on trash day every week, but the raccoons were into it. They’d just be digging around en masse in these giant piles of trash bags, to the point that the piles would move. One night, I was coming home from Hot 97 Summer Jam. It had been raining hard all day. I was totally gross and waterlogged, and I couldn’t wait to get home. Wasn’t really looking where I was going. Walked past this pile of trash bags, and this little fucking gremlin reared up in front of me, baring its teeth and hissing. Scared the shit out of me. I used to think raccoons were cute. I still think raccoons are cute. In that moment, though, I felt a sudden and visceral combination of surprise, disbelief, and abject horror. This song kind of sounds like that. [From Shooting Star, out now on Toxic State Records/Quality Control HQ.]

Final Form – “The Chain”

When UK thrashers Final Form really bear down on a riff, it’s fucking over. Everything is so crisp and focused and mean. When the main riff on “The Chain” kicks in, I feel like a reanimated corpse, lit on fire, skateboarding through a sleepy suburban subdivision. When Final Form switch the riff up for the solo, I feel like a hungry pterodactyl trapped in a busy shopping mall on Black Friday. When that breakdown hits? Listen. Buddy. I’m a whale who is somehow also a rhino, and your plans for a relaxing early-summer cruise are about to take a scary and confusing turn. [From Final Form/Bloodfury split, out now on DAZE.]

Live It Down – “The Final Rite”

Anytime that anyone, in any genre of music, starts off a heavy song with ominously pretty Kirk Hammett-style neoclassical guitar noodling, I’m a happy guy. Give me that all day. I love the instant peace-to-violence dynamic, the show-offy display of technique, the interjection of melody where there might otherwise be none. I like all of it. Live It Down are from Cleveland, a place with a rich history of metallic riff-monster hardcore, and they immediately sound like they belong within that lineage. There’s a whole lot of confidence in this band. They’re tackling familiar sounds in familiar ways, but they’re also making sure the first song of their first EP is at least half intro. That’s good shit. [From Thy Kingdom Come EP, out now on Triple B Records.]

The Lousy – “Dogs Of War”

It doesn’t look like it would be any fun to be one of Lord Humungus’ Dogs Of War in The Road Warrior. You get your fingers chopped off by a freaky little kid’s boomerang, and then all your friends laugh at you? Fuck that shit. Couldn’t be me. But the Dogs Of War do dress better than virtually anyone else in cinematic history, and if there’s any access to recorded music in the Wasteland, they’re probably blasting shit that sounds like “Dogs Of War.” That probably makes it all feel better. The Lousy, from Boston, manage to combine stanky-dumpster basement crust with blown-out long-hair-in-the-wind ’80s thrash, and the end result is the kind of thing that might cause me to declare war on an isolated settlement just so I could steal its gasoline. [From Another Lousy Tape cassette, out now on Sore Mind.]

Mil-Spec – “The Days Don’t End”

What a song, and what a band. You can play spot-the-influence with Toronto’s Mil-Spec all day, but they put so much passion and inventiveness into everything they do. “The Days Don’t End,” the lead single from an album that still hasn’t been announced, is shot through with a deep and painful sense of longing, but its bittersweet depth doesn’t stop it from sounding like bombs exploding overhead. It’s an anthem for clotheslining your friends while ruminating on all the time you’ve lost, all the miles you’ve left on the road behind you. Cool video, too. [From as-yet-untitled LP, out later this year on Lockin’ Out.]

Rat Cage – “Change From A Fiver”

“This country, to me, is finished. There’s no way it can get any better. It’s just gonna get worse.” I don’t know what thick-accented English person appears, via sample, at the beginning of “Change From A Fiver,” but I’m not going to argue with him. It’s not like it’s that much better over here, but the vibes over in the UK seem to be extremely fucked. Fortunately, a band like Sheffield’s Rat Cage thrive in a fucked-vibes environment, and this piece of barreling, cranked-up D-beat is the type of thing that I want to hear from places where society is utterly failing. Before long, I could see all music sounding something like “Change From A Fiver.” I’m not really looking forward to that development, but it has its silver linings. [From Savage Visions, out 6/9 on La Vida Es Un Mus Discos.]

Record Setter – “Outdated Wallpaper”

I have been hearing about the in-progress Balladeers, Redefined comp, Touché Amoré leader Jeremy Bolm’s massive survey of the teeming screamo underground, for years. (Someone once told me that the plan was to call it America’s Screamo. That was probably a joke, but I think they should’ve done it.) That whole scene is a beautiful thing, and it deserves whatever canonization this collection might bring. The Texan band Record Setter’s jagged style — twinkly college-rock guitars into desperate wails into thunder-crash riffage — is a great example of why a record like that should exist. I know I’m not exactly talking about Madball here, but when “Outdated Wallpaper” reaches its raging climax, I still want to headbutt everything in my immediate vicinity. [From Balladeers, Redefined compilation, out 7/14 on Secret Voice.]

Squelette – “Oraison Finale”

In the early ’80s, the British band Blitz were among the leading lights of the oi/street-punk phenomenon. But Blitz pissed off a vast chunk of their fanbase with their 1982 album Second Empire Justice, pushing their chest-thumping gang-bark sound in the direction of gothy synthpop. In recent years, however, a whole lot of people, many of whom presumably weren’t alive at the time, have realized that new-wave Blitz is fucking awesome. We’re looking at all these newer bands, like Syndrome 81 and Home Front, who are very happy to chant about fighting over reverb-drenched keyboards, and I love it. Paris natives Squelette, who share at least one member with French oi beasts Rixe, sound a bit like soccer-hooligan Echo & The Bunnymen, which is a great fucking aesthetic and which becomes even cooler, somehow, when all the lyrics are in French. “Oraison Finale” might be their prettiest song, and it might also be their best. [From Fin De Partie, out now on Primator Crew.]

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