For the better part of last week, I have been listening to the newest album by Weekend Nachos, a hardcore punk band from Chicago, Illinois. The album, called Worthless, is blisteringly fast, with a total of 14 tracks in just over 26 minutes. Because of the album’s brevity, I must have listened to it over 20 times, and of all the tracks on the album, the song “Jock Powerviolence” really stands out from the others. Even if I had the album designated to background music, my concentration was always torn away from whatever I was doing when the song came on, as the mid-song guest vocals are so distinctive and fresh that they demand attention. Beyond the distinctive vocals, the song has particularly interesting subject matter: powerviolence.
If you have any interest in hardcore punk, and are interested in learning a little about powerviolence, then strap yourself in!
Anyone who has spent some time listening to hardcore punk has undoubtedly come across the term powerviolence. Despite how commonly the word is thrown around, there really is not one simple, agreed upon definition of the style. Typing “what is powerviolence” on Google will bring up a multitude of forum topics with people arguing about the genre (with everyone name dropping a bunch of bands they think are powerviolence bands, which are then quickly ridiculed by other posters).
From what I understand, the genre came to prominence in the early 90s in Southern California with bands like Infest and Neanderthal. Soundwise, powerviolence songs are characterized by rapid tempo changes, featuring interplays with fast hardcore passages and slow, sludgy sections. Most of the songs are extremely short ranging between 30 seconds to a little over a minute. When I think of powerviolence, I think of the aforementioned Infest (though, I think some would say they were the forerunner of the style, and not part of it). The song “Break The Chain” should give you a pretty good idea of what a powerviolence song sounds like:
Neanderthal is often considered the first powerviolence band, consisting of Eric Wood (who went on to form Man is the Bastard) and Matt Domino (of Infest). The band was extremely short-lived, with Eric Wood going on to form Man is the Bastard (whom I have mentioned on here before, with their distinctive skull logo, and their evolution into the noise band Bastard Noise). It was Man is the Bastard who actually coined the term powerviolence in the song H.S.M.P.:
I have seen it argued that powerviolence only applies to the Southern California hardcore scene in the early 90s. However, there are certainly a large number of bands that have adopted the sound and aesthetic of powerviolence, resulting in something of a resurgence of the genre in recent years. Weekend Nachos is one of those bands that fit the mold of powerviolence pretty well, with their fast-slow-fast song structures, and intensity. Even the vocalist (John Hoffman) sounds a lot like Joe Denunzio of Infest on Weekend Nachos’ older albums. John’s vocals on Worthless are a considerable departure, however, with him opting for a, dare I say, slightly more traditional style of screaming. Part of me wants to think that this change in vocal style is an attempt for the band to distance themselves from the resurgent powerviolence scene. And if you pay attention to what John is singing about in the song “Jock Powerviolence,“ that idea is supported. So now, at long last, I invite you to listen to the song and read the lyrics, which I have included below (don’t worry, the song is not long):
Me and my jock friends are jumping on a trend.
A style that was never cool,
until you fucking posers made your fucking claim.
Man is the Bastard skulls, what a surprise.
You fucking wimps have got the formula memorized.
Infest worship, Crossed Out riffs.
We don’t know nothing so please guide us you fucking pricks.
I stopped trying to be cool a long time ago.
I laugh to myself as I see you come and go.
Make up rules for your friends to live by.
I’ll keep doing things my way while you fucking cry.
Prove nothing to elitist children.
I’ll let you talk. I owe you nothing.
It seems pretty evident to me that the song is calling out those that get too wrapped up in narrow genre constraints, and are not willing to branch out and listen to new things. If the never ending forum battles about the genre show anything, powerviolence has digressed into a genre with too many rules and stuck up fans to uphold them. Weekend Nachos is not about trying to stick to a template, or be confined to a certain type of sound in order to be cool in the eyes of “powerviolence purists”. If you listen to the band's last three releases (Unforgiveable, Bleed, and Worthless), there is an obvious evolution of their sound (they have been experimenting with guitar feedback, and drone segments). And as further proof that they are not concerned with what the purists have to say about their music, the guest vocalist in “Jock Powerviolence” is none other than Patrick Stump, the singer to Fall Out Boy (I hope you all find this as funny as I do).