The position of Providence, RI’s Downtown Boys has been clear since they started storming through basements and DIY spaces with their radically-minded rock music: they are here to topple the white-cis-het hegemony and draft a new history. Downtown Boys began by combining revolutionary ideals with boundless energy and contagious, inclusive fun, and their resolve has only strengthened as their sound and audience have grown.
‘Cost of Living’ is their third full-length, following a self-released 2012 debut and 2015’s Full Communism on Don Giovanni Records. They recorded it with Guy Picciotto (Fugazi; producer of Blonde Redhead, The Gossip), one of indie-rock’s most mythological figures, in the producer’s chair. Picciotto fostered the band’s improvisational urges while pulling the root of their music to the forefront: unflinching choruses, fearlessly confrontational vocals, and the sense that each song will incite the room into action, sending bodies into motion that were previously thought to have atrophied.
Compared to previous efforts, Downtown Boys have shifted from a once-meaty brass section to the subtler melodic accompaniment of keyboards and a saxophone, colouring their anthems with warm, bright tones while singer/lyricist Victoria Ruiz spits out her frustrations and passions. Some might say it shows a sense of maturity, as Downtown Boys have undoubtedly smoothed down some of their earlier edges, but there is no compromise to their righteous assault and captivating presence. Like the socially conscious groups of years past, from Public Enemy to Rage Against the Machine, Downtown Boys harness powerful sloganeering, repetitive grooves, and earworm hooks to create one of the most necessary musical statements of the day. We should all do well to take notice!
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