In ‘Readjusting the Locks’, Institute launch a 29-minute barrage of politically charged punk that’s equal parts rhythm and substance.
Bands like Crass and Dead Kennedys shaped the anarcho-punk D.I.Y ethos with their contempt of the establishment and the music industry alike. Yet despite their impact on the genre, they never managed to instigate any longstanding political change. Former die-hard nihilist punks burnt-out from excess and disillusionment ended up assimilating into the establishment they fought so viciously against. Even Johnny Rotten went from apocalyptic herald demanding anarchy in the streets of the UK to shamelessly shooting Country Life butter commercials.
Fast-forward to 2019: A world reeling from the ruthless profiteering and aggressive expansion of the neoliberal capitalist agenda. In such dire times, you could say the world is ripe for a new punk renaissance; explosive chords and screams of revolution from the strained lungs of kickflipping vagabonds; the raw unfiltered expression of anger and discontent as opposed to flickering candles and new age hymns. Sadly, it is unlikely that punk will ever have the impact it once had, but that hasn’t stopped Texan punk stalwarts Institute from ripping the shit out of their guitars in the name of righteous mutiny since 2014.
Members of their own bands (Glue, Wiccans and Back to Back), Institute‘s Moses Brown, Arak Avakian, Adam Cahoon, and Barry Elkanick unite every now and again to proliferate their yobbish high-octane take on anarcho-punk. Although half of the band have left their hometown of Austin for New York, they have retained their intimate sweat-drenched sound, distance playing little in the way of an obstruction.
Released May 17, 2019 via Sacred Bones Records, Institute’s third album Readjusting the Locks sees the band thrash out a slick, snappy 29-minute barrage of anti-establishment belters recalling the naïve and golden age of grassroots punk dissent and malcontent. According to frontman Moses Brown the world is suffering from an existential crisis, and we need to take society to the operating room – as opposed to slapping some plasters, giving it some aspirin, and hoping that things will get better. It’s that desire for fundamental change from the ground up, the reengineering of the system into a conscious collective of individuals that punk once stood for, and definitely what Readjusting the Locks represents.
Stream: ‘Readjusting the Locks’ – Institute
Whereas their previous albums Catharsis and Subordination made slight veers into new territories of krautrock, glam and hard rock, Readjusting the Locks has its roots firmly in the hardcore punk tradition. You wouldn’t bat an eyelid if the whole record was a soundtrack to an early Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater game: You can easily imagine collecting S-K-A-T-E with bus grinds and pool transfers while tapping your feet to the sloppy riffs, frantic drums and slurring of Moses Brown on “Let Me Be,” or getting a high score with 720 Madonnas and 540 varialheelflips listening to the trailblazing intro of strained ascending chords on “Dazzle Paint.” Nit-picking tracks doesn’t feel right though; the record definitely plays best listening to it as a whole, and without interruptions.
Readjusting the Locks is rough and contentious D.I.Y. mosh-pit punk and a refreshing change from the boy band-ish major label passiveness that came to dominate punk from the nineties into the millennium. You may miss the politically charged lyrics in Brown’s seemingly stroke-induced mumbling, like histirade against the Mont Pelerin Society on opener ‘MPS’. “Fermenting neoliberal dreams, dangerous free-market realities, let the state rot, competition is king.”
The one thing that won’t get lost in translation is the force and raw energy of their blistering and relentless instrumental work. The golden age of punk is well and truly over, but in Readjusting the Locks, Institute recreate the atmosphere of dimly lit sticker–covered dives and smokey stages of tangled wires and beer drenched punks. And let me tell you, it’s a beautiful sight to behold.
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