Hardcore hasn’t really gone anywhere. For the last decade or so, it’s mostly kept a low profile, as the soda-pop swill of Vans Warped Tour and lazy alt-rock radio trampled all over its good name. But lately, its fortunes have begun to change.
What’s behind hardcore’s resurgence? Well, a few tastemakers, a handful of bands, and a lot of piss-poor circumstances. Thank Canadian sextet Fucked Up for making a massive “rock opera” even NPR could love; thank shock-rap collective Odd Future for supporting Sacramento four-piece Trash Talk; thank Off! for showing that old guys can cause a ruckus; thank Iceage for proving that teens can, too. And perhaps thank the recent, infuriating campaign season and a 7.9 percent unemployment rate for lighting a fire under our asses.
All of this bodes well for D.C. punk supergroup Regents. The band’s debut, Antietam After Party, is a strong and arty take on the kind of aggressive, discordant hardcore that’s making a comeback. The band’s pedigree doesn’t hurt, either: Its members have spent time Frodus, Sleepytime Trio, and Thursday—and former Jawbox frontman J. Robbins produced the album and filled in on bass.
On Antietam, Regents packs razor-sharp, spindly guitar riffs; meaty, rumbling bass lines; pummeling drumming with a touch of swing; and scalding vocal squawks into the mix. The album wavers between barrages of guttural, hooky punk bristling with rage—at times vocalists David NeSmith and Drew Ringo sound like they’re hacking up blood—and tense, restrained melodies that stoke the flames.
But while Regents is clearly hardcore, the record is transgressive—the band draws out its songs and fills them out with unusual sounds. Nearly half of “Start to Beginning” is focused on Jason Hamacher’s impressive, jazzy drum rolls, and final track “Rest Insured” begins with an ancient Christian chant that leads into a taut, cyclical guitar line. Parts of Antietam After Party are even reminiscent of the experimental punk that came out of San Diego in the early ’90s.
Things get especially interesting when the band dials it back. It’s moments like the angular, trance-inducing guitar riff at the center of “Nothing to Water” that give Antietam After Party the kind of powerful and nuanced aggression that feels harder than hardcore.