If you like your rock music loud, bolshy, and tinged with furious early-2000s urgency, then Asylums are the band for you. Their second album Genetic Cabaret is a political commentary on all things Donald Trump, Brexit, widening class contrasts and generational divides. It offers you something to scream along to at the top of your lungs and lyrically, Asylums have written some simply impeccable powerful protest songs forged via personal and societal scrutiny. However, you enjoy something a little more adventurous, dynamic and more than a clear nod to their their clear as day influences, this may not be the fresh relief to the itch you're seeking for.
‘Who Writes Tomorrow’s Headlines?’ is incredibly thought-provoking. Singer and frontman Luke Branch croons, “What wakes you in the morning? / Coffee with growing pains.” The lyrics are profound and fit perfectly with the laid-back groove of the drums. At first glance, ‘Who Writes Tomorrow’s Headlines’ is a perfectly understandable complaint about media bias, but it is more uplifting than that, being a call to arms against the domineering news corporations.
In relation, ‘The Miracle Age’ is another fantastic tune on this record. Another slower one with a different vibe, its subtleties brought tears to our eyes. A cross between a punk song and a pop ballad, this track is was definitely a risk that paid off. Branch’s vocal performance is stunning, delicate at times and powerful at others to ensure his lyrics hit home. To put it simply, ‘The Miracle Age’ is beautiful and if you do nothing else today, listen to this track.
Unfortunately, such blinding praise can't be applied to the majority of the record. Of course, Asylums are brilliant musicians who can write intelligent lyrics and huge stadium-anthem-esque riffs. But the remainder of ‘Genetic Cabaret’, whilst fantastically articulated with sardonic poetic wit, seems to have a habit of blending into a two-tone uniform blur of scuzzed punk. This in turn could be attributed to the work of acclaimed noise-rock alchemist Steve Albini (Nirvana, METZ, Sunn O)))), a producer and engineer known for detailing in utmost nuance. Those accustomed to tuning into the minor contrasts and differences within steel polished punk and noise will likely be able to ascertain a wider range of stylistics here, but for the the majority, this release will sprawl forth without any key differences.
Separately, these songs are, put simply, awesome. The anger, rage and quietly reserved optimism burns with the light of raised torches and they show the band’s stance on the world’s messy state and encourage listeners to speak out against political wrongdoings. But compile the songs into an album and you’re left with something that becomes incredibly difficult to listen to in one sitting. There are subtle differences between tracks but each one blends into the next with little to distinguish them from one another.
So make of this what you will. You might find that Asylums have written your next favourite record. It’s full to the brim with riffs and anthemic choruses which you may love. Or you may find that Genetic Cabaret fails to ignite the call to arms that it demands. A potential grower and cult classic, the only real way for you to find out is to experience it yourself.
Genetic Cabaret is out July 17th via Cool Thing Records
Kris and Sam of the Noizze Podcast had a slightly different take on the record. Check out their opinion, and reviews on other new albums, on the latest episode of the Podcast on Spotify.