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March 1, 2005

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Pissed-off punk rock is back on point.

Shaking any implications of a sophomore slump, Paint It Black’s second album, Paradise, tears out of the gate with enough pent-up frustration to start your speakers on fire. Things never let up, either, with hit-and-run songwriting alluding to the glory days of hardcore-era Hüsker Dü and Minutemen. It’s enough to make you forget about all the abortions passed off as punk rock in recent years.

You can’t go wrong idolizing the SST Records catalog, at least when you take its searing lessons to heart in the way that Paint It Black does. Picking up where its debut, 2003’s CVA, left off, singer Dan Yemen (formerly of Kid Dynamite) leads his band, now expanded to a four-piece, through Paradise, which is all manic tempos; distorted, clashing guitars; and that impossible-to-fake fury that separates punk’s men from its boys. After nearly 30 years of punk rock, even the idealists know you can’t change the world with just three chords and a chip on your shoulder, but if you could, Paint It Black would be the sort of band that ushers in the righteous new world order.

Paint It Black lays into every notion of a kinder, gentler punk on this album, championing the self-righteous leftist fire that was the heart of punk’s original revolutionary spirit. In “Election Day,” Yemen provides a send-off to every politician’s broken promise as his band sounds as if it attacks its instruments with pitchforks, axe-handle bludgeons and other primitive weaponry. It’s over in a few ticks more than a minute and sets the standard for the album. “Burn the Hive” aims the band’s rocket-propelled guitars at jingoist isolation, “Ghosts” is a drop-out anthem for every underground dweller and “The New Brutality” is a feedback-smeared manifesto that’s impossible to ignore.

There are no half-measures remotely connected with Paint It Black: You’ll either immediately connect with the band’s primitive din and furious message or you’ll always be on the outside. Punk’s always been about an us-against-them-struggle and it’s rarely as evident as when it’s in the hands of Paint It Back. Before the baby-doll T-shirts, the downloadable ring tones and the millions of MTV-addicted fans, punk was a scream from the margins of society. Paradise puts it back there where it belongs. It’s uncomfortable as hell, but magnificent in its decisiveness.


Matt Schild