All that’s required for some rallying cries is to tell it like it is: “A wall is a wall, a wall is just a wall,” rails singer Victoria Ruiz on Downtown Boys‘ new single. Plucked from the forthcoming third LP Cost of Living, out August 11 on Sub Pop, Downtown Boys’ latest track condemns the bigoted U.S. kakistocracy’s anti-immigration blueprint. “A Wall” feels intentionally obvious: Ruiz and company deliver their message matter-of-fact, because the absurdity and hatred is inherent, transparent. Enough said.
While the radical punk crew has consistently called out racism, hate, fascism, and LGBTQIA phobia in the clearest of ways, “A Wall” is a wholly straightforward critique backdropped by a leaner, but still super-charged, version of Downtown Boys. This new, third LP marks the first on iconic independent label Sub Pop; they’re heralding the record as a “mature” advance in the Providence band’s discography, but pointed and deliberate might be better descriptors. Downtown Boys haven’t aged out of their rage, they’ve just gotten even more precise in nailing their targets.
Here, typically raucous sax rests easier, the hyperspeed percussion is slightly slowed, and Ruiz’s vocals are especially discernible — the perfect setup to slash the normalizing of a regime of hate. No convoluted lyrics, no tangled metaphors: At one point, Ruiz questions rhetorically, “Do I need to say more?”
Emotional pandering, abusing the heartstrings, fear as motivation for hate — that’s what demagogues like Trump do. Downtown Boys have never needed to resort to such puerile strategies. Hatred is hatred, clear as day. “A Wall” is an attack that builds itself.