They’re slinking around to a sluggish but ultimately enrapturing electric groove in “Red Crimes.” Bashing us in the face with eruptive riffs in “The Foreigner.” Smothering the air with carnal beats in “Pieces.”
The energy is both adrenaline-laced in “5000 Years” and anxiety-inducing in “Uomo Moderno.” The intensity is inescapable in “Circumstances” and “Magaman.” From the up-tempo bombings of “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” “You’re so Fucking Cool” and the zany “Armadillo Man” to the fiery melodicism in “Catatonic (I’m Not a Communist),” “Endless Sleep” and “An Opportunity of a Lifetime,” Round Eye are determined to make punk great again in 2020, and their third studio album Culture Shock Treatment is their official mission statement. Untethered to the desires of a Chinese government-worshiping corporate America in the single (and video for) “Smokestack” and ready to smash through anything and anyone who comes between their message and the audience in the title track of Culture Shock Treatment, Round Eye are at the top of their fame in this most recent release, which I’ll boldly rank as one of the more important alternative albums you can listen to this summer.
For how heavy an affair this is, there’s not a lot of bassline indulgence to be found in this record. “An Opportunity of a Lifetime” gallops into focus without ever inviting any of the bottom-end sludge that would normally be inserted in a Discharge-style romper of its kind. “Pieces” flirt with metallic elements in the vein of a late 80’s crossover, but its crunch doesn’t feel forced or synthetically augmented at all. The video for “Smokestack” is straight DIY personified, and better yet, its political element is incredibly spellbinding. We aren’t given a chance to slow down at any juncture of Culture Shock Treatment’s tracklist; contrarily, there’s constantly the feeling that the walls are about to come crashing down around us (not unlike what the protestors featured prominently in the “Smokestack” video likely experience on a much grander, impossible-to-fathom scale). The chemistry between Round Eye is undeniably hotter than it’s ever been before, only solidifying how authentic their angst and anger at the system is in this career-defining release.
If this is what Round Eye are bringing to the table in the 2020s, you can go ahead and sign me up for a lot more from this band. Punk rock is really but one ingredient in this group’s recipe for success; in their sound, we can hear shades of ska, blues, cowpunk and a whole lot of noise served up vintage-style. This fifteen-song tracklist makes me curious as to what a live album from these guys could and would sound like if it came to fruition, and my gut tells me I’m not alone in wishing to hear something along those lines in the next year or two.
We’re living in an era of protest and provocative statements – many of which are long overdue – and with the help of bands like this one, the conversation can continue alongside a musical might that articulates the collective emotions of a restless generation.