'Born a Cynic'- Weatherstate / Turned Up Louder
Being cooped up in semi-isolation with a group of your close friends is a sure-fire way to discover the strange, untamed side of anybody. The ideas that float around in the dark recesses of your head have nowhere to be released, and so they all become absorbed into the project you are pouring the entire rest of your being into. That was certainly the case for Bristolian punk quartet Weatherstate, as they holed themselves up inside of The Ranch Production House for close to a fortnight, never leaving the studio, even to sleep. The resulting project is their debut full-length record, ‘Born a Cynic’, which definitely mirrors that subterranean, cerebral murkiness that plagued its conception. Blending that duskiness with a healthy dose of ranging punk melodies and vivacious sing-along choruses, this is a record that will pique your interest from the very first listen.
Opening with a flurry of distorted guitars, grainy as tv static, ‘Ghost’ breaks into a relentless wall of pulsating sound, as the drums pummel like the hooves of a cantering horse, with all the hallmarks of the much mourned gritty 90s punk. The only lull is that split-second where the backing falls away in the swaying pre-chorus before it all comes crashing back in again- what will surely be a welcome breather from the raucous mosh pits that will undoubtedly be whipped up by this band’s live performances! This track is undoubtedly ideal for tiny, packed out sweaty venues, yet it also contains a refined edge to the lyricism, balancing all of the unchained revelry of punk with a flair of something well-crafted and intelligent lying beneath the surface.
Classic pop punk chord progressions signal the opening of ‘Brain Dead’, with its lively, danceable chorus, kept grounded by that reverberating, granular guitar tone. Infectiously buoyant, the shout-alongs buried in the background of the mix are sure to rise to prominence when this is played live! A touch lighter than much of the record, ‘Medicate’ too carries those scars from glancing encounters with the saturated world of pop punk, as the upward soar that frosts the peak of the lyrics simply begs for a sing-along! Unrelenting in its pace, however, the fist-pumping chorus, allies itself to the dark source of the lyrical content. Tension builds rapidly through the rolling drums and staccato guitars of ‘Sympathy’, yet the upswing into the chorus is not as gut-wrenching as it perhaps had the potential to be. Again, the guitar work is the star of the show, glittering most beautifully when left to its own devices in the bridge, where it pitches and falls with apparent ease. Cleaner and fresher still is ‘Nothing Matters If You Try’- though the opening guitars still hum like a swarm of wasps, one can’t help but miss that characteristic gritty flair that dominates the early tracks of the record.
When that idiosyncratic dark crunchiness returns, however, it does so in style! ‘Barely Human’ is rich and full-bodied: with the grumbling bass tone buried deep in the mix; strained vocals in the bridge that launch into a writhing sea of rumbling guitars with palpable fervour; and the acidic tinge to the guitar tone, just try and stop your head bopping along to the undulating beat! Chugging guitars send a pulse of electricity through the listener with the arrival of ‘Rented Space’, with its chorus that is just ready to bear crowdsurfers high into the air, and pummelling drums drive the bridge onwards, never letting you pause for a single breath until the final wailing feedback. At times that desire for dark intrigue does somewhat miss the mark, namely on angst-ridden ‘Emma-Lynn’, which labours through a more laid-back tempo, only clutching faintly at a sense of gravitas, as the grungy guitar tone growls its message to a toxic former muse. Nevertheless, when it works, it really works! ‘Rotten Lungs’ is an absolute firecracker that bursts forth at breakneck pace, leaving no pauses to draw breath breath between the driving guitars and galloping drums. It is a feeling akin to being shoved inside a pressure-cooker, that slowly dissolves and unravels in a breathless spiral into a wail of screeching guitars.
Undoubtedly the highlight of this record, however, is ‘Arteries’. It boasts a foundation of an uplifting, road-trip ready melody, that thankfully doesn’t stray into the lofty heights of the pop-sphere thanks to the utterly delectable guitar tone, overlain with shivering harmonisations that pull your gut response in an entirely unexpected direction with the thud into the chorus. Surprising an avid punk and pop punk fan is no mean feat, but that moment is one of complete revelation, followed by utter delight, and one you can’t help but want to play on repeat from the moment you hear it! Like the closing credits of any epic journey of pitching highs and flitting lows, closer ‘Cynic’ is a well-balanced reflection of all that has gone before- though not without some tricks of its own! Skittering guitar notes slowly broaden and fill out, while the pleasant surprise that is the xylophone adds a delicate touch to the fringes. The chiming in of the cymbals promises the imminent final flourish to this impressive record, and it definitely delivers with a raucous yet perfectly balanced final chorus.
In a saturated market where music is as readily available as water, producing art that still has the capability to surprise is an even greater challenge that many will realise. However, Weatherstate have undoubtedly succeeded in doing just that. ‘Born a Cynic’ takes all the joy and wild abandon of punk, lacing it with a carefully crafted, murkier edge that makes it both an undeniably entertaining and deeply intriguing record. Anyone looking for a fresh bit of zest to be injected into their punk library: look no further!
‘Born a Cynic’ is out now via Failure by Design.
Check out the video for 'Medicate', which faithfully re-creates Green Day's iconic video for 'Basket Case', below:
Weatherstate will be heading out on the road this summer, supporting fellow pop-punkers The Bottom Line- dates can be found below, and tickets are available here