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March 11, 2008

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Average rating: 7.0 out of 10

Hardcore bands have always drawn from the same musical pot: sing-along choruses, breakdowns, chugging bass lines. Some might say it's a derivative genre, but the fine line between a template and a rip-off is indeed in place. It's difficult to say newer hardcore bands are ripping off Minor Threat, Youth of Today, or, hell, even Lifetime, a band Dan Yemin, the singer and co-producer of Philadelphia's Paint It Black, played guitar in. But some bands are better at kicking that formula up a notch.

One such band was Ink and Dagger, the band that Paint It Black gets its moniker from (nope, it's not a Rolling Stones reference). Sean Patrick McCabe (rest in peace) and company bent the boundaries of hardcore and twisted the conventions to come up with songs that were not merely distinctively hardcore but distinctive altogether. Paint It Black picks up from Ink and Dagger's bloody vampire trails.

The title of the band's third album, New Lexicon, is not a complete misnomer. Dispensing with Ink and Dagger's vampire trappings and showing the band's -- and especially Yemin's -- mid- to late-thirties agenda, the lyrics address the political climate, fighting the status quo, even Yemin's recent divorce. It's a bigger worldview than a fantasy one. And the sophisticated production (Oktopus from hip-hop demons Dalek lends a hand) and interplay of two guitars lets hardcore fester and blossom into bigger something it's always hinted at becoming.

The one-two punch of "Missionary Position" and "White Kids Dying of Hunger" can easily be the bastard offspring of Ink and Dagger and Lifetime -- conjoined twins linked by a mesh of electronic noodling. "Shell Game Redux" is an asskicker of a closing track, with extra vocals from Naked Raygun's Jeff Pezzati and a most infectious anthemic chorus. And in this election year, the resounding sing-along at then end of "Past Tense, future Perfect" -- "We are invincible/We may bend, but we will not be broken" -- couldn’t be more apt.

Reaganomics and excess were the original targets of the wave of hardcore led by Minor Threat, and Paint It Black's politics are a direct descendent, minus the straight-edge agenda. Some people might still consider hardcore nostalgic or developmentally arrested, but Paint It Black has twisted hardcore into something more sophisticated, heavier, and more exciting and inventive.

Prefix Mag

Lee Fullington