Favorite Tracks: “Heavy Water,” “Awake, Asleep,” “Resurrection”
Truth Cult takes their name from a Lungfish song and their new album WALK THE WHEEL was produced by Jawbox’s J. Robbins, so the sonic touchstones here are clear. The album is indeed indebted to DC post-hardcore—Paris Roberts’ ragged howl can be a dead ringer for Guy Piccioto’s circa ‘85—but to classify Truth Cult as simply a Revolution Summer worship act would be a gross understatement.
Lead single “Heavy Water” mixes jagged, angular hardcore with a hypnotic psych-rock hook, the interplay between Roberts’ shouts and Emily Ferrara’s croons adding texture to the track. It’s a perfect thesis statement for WALK THE WHEEL, and a template for the record at its best. Songs like “Unstoppable” and “What Is Time?” follow a similar formula, using hardcore punk as a jumping-off point for hooky alt rock. This ability to blend the styles is Truth Cult’s greatest strength; it is increasingly in vogue for bands to throw back to ‘80s post-hardcore, but most are playing it straight. The incorporation of clean post-punk choruses on a track like “Resurrection” push the band well above their peers in the same category.
The downside to this is that within the first three tracks—the introductory “Squeeze,” “Resurrection,” and “Heavy Water”—the band establishes the stakes and the sonic boundaries, and when “Clearskin” kicks in afterward, it falls short. As a fairly straightforward hardcore punk cut, it feels less gripping than the album’s more amorphous tracks. When Truth Cult commits themselves to the particular lane of ‘80s-influenced hardcore, like on that track or “Kokaine Kommando” or “Ain’t Rubbin No Shoulders,” it’s clearly less than the band’s capable of.
Contrarily, their efforts in the other direction are surprisingly rewarding; “Awake, Asleep” foregoes hardcore altogether in favor of trancelike, shimmering alt rock, propelled by Ferrara’s dreamlike vocals. The driving “Naked in the End” uses Roberts merely as a counterpoint to Ferrara, hardcore-inflected alt rock rather than the other way around, and it’s as compelling a track can be found on WALK THE WHEEL. Admittedly, though, as much as a song like the furious “Ain’t Rubbin No Shoulders” might not stack up to the rest of the LP, it’s still a barnburner of a song—it’s more a testament to the genre-fluid sound of WALK THE WHEEL that a song that competent can be considered lesser.