Lighten Up - Absolutely Not
Last Saturday I crowded with a hundred or so of the most tattooed, pierced, unwashed people I’d ever seen in the basement of a seedy punk house in West Philadelphia known as the Shore House. On the far end of the basement (where someone had thoughtfully attached carpeting to the walls, presumably so it doesn’t hurt when you’re slammed into them), Germs t-shirts hung drying on a line while the night’s openers set up their drums. Forties of Olde English and unfiltered cigarettes abounded as the crowd of punks and hipsters swelled and ebbed down the broken street and barbed wire alleyways, all waiting to see one band.
Hardcore outfit Lighten Up deliver a style of punk rock that blisters without burning on their surprisingly slick debut full length album, Absolutely Not. In the spirit of Minor Threat, the Descendents, and too many others to name, every song here is under two minutes, but vocalist Perry Shall packs volumes of heart and spirit into each song. If the delivery of these tunes seems blunt and forceful, the slyly sarcastic writing of his lyrics proves that the band is anything but: with song names like “Boyz II Wolves” and “Buttspeak” (which refers, apparently quite literally, to talking out of your ass), the listener can detect an intelligent smirk lurking beneath the mix.
The rhythm section of Lighten Up seems to borrow heavily from Jersey heroes Lifetime and Kid Dynamite while incorporating all the least obnoxious moments of posi veterans Good Clean Fun. There is a certain amount of classic hardcore revival here (though I would not presume myself knowledgeable enough in the field of hardcore to drop names), but this Absolutely Not is by no means an '80s punk record. These differences (and, interestingly, these similarities) are most obvious on the album’s title track, which happens to be a personal favorite of mine.
It is also on this song, “Absolutely Not,” that Lighten Up’s intelligent songwriting shines through the strongest. The pre-chorus is perhaps the most powerful, containing the lines “Breathe in/ breathe out/I think about it again/but I don’t feel better yet/I just/adjust/I should give up now/’cause I’ll never win.” Later, Shall shouts, “I wish I could care less/I was I was careless.” And if the crowd’s reaction at their album release show was any indication, his fans feel exactly the same way.
Lighten Up’s set was nothing short of explosive; the band covered ten or twelve songs in about as many minutes before abruptly shutting off their equipment and calling it a night. If the backyard and kitchen of 51st and Spruce Streets were overflowing with audience members earlier that evening, they were near-empty now as everyone in attendance gathered to witness the historic event. When it came time to play “Absolutely Not,” it became apparent that the guys have got an anthem on their hands. There were no encores, however. By the time Lighten Up finished their set, the show had been going on for more than three hours. The crowd in West Philly dwindled, sending everyone, audience and performers alike, home with a sweaty, exhilarating memory.
User Reviews and CommentsLog In or Register to Rate Albums
Tell us why this album is great or sucks ass, or correct the reviewer. If you write enough quality reviews you may find yourself on the editorial staff.
Reviews have to be over 100 words, shorter ones are classed as comments.