Chalk it up to Cloak/Dagger being supported by a palette of incredibly similar influences (early `80s American hardcore, Hot Snakes, garage recordings), but Christ if their Pinata 7" of last year didn’t sound awfully like the Bronx. We Are re-introduces the band proudly, as the supergroup traces a smoother line to those details of their sound, eschewing that aforementioned comparison and establishing a clear picture that’s all their own.
That pedigree, by the way, includes Count Me Out, American Nightmare, Barfight, Time Flies, Striking Distance, Trial by Fire and Renee Heartfelt. Several of these made prominent strides for modern hardcore while others tactfully if not obviously helped update slightly elder sounds. That experience goes a long way with We Are — where Pinata merely seemed like competent revivalism, Cloak/Dagger’s first full-length is one of those albums that sounds as if sent forward in a time warp from 25 years ago: a retro-fitted hardcore album with enough flourishes from punk rock’s timeline since to make it sound fresh.
With opener "Bended Knee" it’s vividly clear that Cloak/Dagger have been stoked somewhere in the time since recording Pinata. It’s faster and more frenetic than the band have ever sounded, not exactly moving at lightning-fast speeds but unusually hyper and way less tempered than we’re used to hearing from them. The work of Lords’ Chris Owens, who’s responsible for the glorious-sounding recording, also comes into play quite quickly, as he helps Cloak/Dagger bristle with a deliciously 1982 flair.
That tempo seems to replace the catchiness of earlier material like "Daggers," as many of We Are’s tracks don’t quite firmly etch itself in one’s memory. However, they tend to move at such new found, exhilarating speeds that they’re pure fun in the present moment of listening. And if they aren’t, in their place are lesser paced bursts of guitar noise ("J.C. Pays the Bills"). Cuts (pun not intended) like "Runways," "Walk the Block" and "Hollywood Hills" bounce with a confident swagger (the latter two hooks aplenty, actually) that prove the band know precisely what they’re doing, and how much they excel at it.
We Are is as solid a debut as they come, as Cloak/Dagger have already begun to shed the derivative nature of earlier tendencies and deliver a more original version of roots hardcore that’s far too sporadic these days.