“What’s the slogan for where you’re at now?” Patrick Kindlon delivers a question in a sequence of other questions and declarations, but it’s here that we’re stabbed right in the moment. The track ‘Full Literalism’ opens Working People (Part 1), the new EP from Self Defense Family. During a season where many other bands are wallowing in sentimentalism and soft focus, Kindlon and his collaborators issue a shimmering, dark EP – the proceeds of which will be donated to SWOP – a charity that supports incarcerated sex workers.
We last heard from Self Defense Family with the release of Have You Considered Punk Music? – an album that (among other things) articulated a deepening of the songwriter’s societal concern, and the necessity to manifest change. In a disquieting landscape Kindlon, and his ever-evolving musical project offered suggestion, as well as protest. It was a solid album, and it deserves revisit in end-of-year reflection.
Here, on Working People (Part 1) Self Defense Family continue the trajectory of enquiry. A subdued celebration of humanity, the EP also faces the desperate circumstances that continue, minute-by-minute for many American souls. Sitting in the middle of the three-track sequence is the sarcastically titled, “It Can’t Happen Here”. This incredulous expression opens the lid on an over-seasoned set of images – kids being snatched up and put in the back of vans, the wake of Katrina, and people loving stories more than reason. This is America. Set against a cacophonous piano, a swirling mass of distorted guitar – the images are almost too much to bear, because, well, life is too much to bear – and yet it must be done. Survival is not a heroic choice, but a necessity.
Not known for avoiding the emotional dark of goings on, Self Defense Family dig deeper into the bruising aspects in the lives of working people. ‘Work’ here means one particular thing, but it also means lots of different things. But for all the items difficult to digest, there’s also a dark, dark, gallows humor. There’s a raw quality captured in production, so even in the usually shiny sound of a slide guitar arrives like it’s been recorded under dirty water. Reverb is heavy, echo distorts, fuzz infects almost everything. It’s great.
This kind of release; a simple three-track EP issued by a band with a certain kind of reputation, and a definite kind of ethic, adds to not-small back catalog. Working People (Part 1) also lends weight to a manifesto by which Kindlon and company clearly live. It’s the momentum of the thing, the depths, and suggested follow-up which it signals toward, that are so deeply rewarding. Beautiful, uneasy listening, with a cause in its heart.
HURRY – BUY – SELF DEFENSE FAMILY MUSIC