Look, I know how good my life is comparatively speaking to like 99.8% of the world. I really do realize how lucky I am to live where I live, to have access to what I have access to, and that I have the free time to rant like a moron on the internet day after endless day about a bunch of stupid bands made up of a bunch of stupid boys that no one cares about. But my life is damage. Something went wrong in my brain during my formative years. Maybe it was falling off my skateboard. Maybe it was the fighting. Maybe it was the stupid shit me and my friends did that knocked something out of place forever, but things upstairs are not right. There is a part of me that craves a sort of violence. It’s not really physical, I don’t get off on action movies or seeing people get needlessly hurt. But I respond to a certain type of psychic violence and I find, more often than not, that I can get my fill through music.
When I stumbled upon the arguments about Ceremony on the internet and whether their new album Rohnert Park was punk or hardcore or amazing or terrible, something in the argument, moderated in broken English, struck me. I sought the record out in an effort to solve the argument. I am happy to say the detractors lost, Rohnert Park is flawless from beginning to end and excited me in an unexpected way. This is what music is supposed to do in our lives, rile us up, fray the nerves, make us twitch, move, shift, stomp and feel good. We connect with the music that centers in on our nervous system, our psychosis. The music we respond to is not drowning out the demons in our brains, but echoing them and Ceremony did this completely for me.
Rohnert Park was a reminder to me of why I love punk rock. It is music of an almost arrested development. It occurs to the listener at that moment where we are too old to live in the comforts of childhood but know that the world of adults is totally fucked and we’ve been lied to. Ceremony’s response to this was to create a schizophrenic album off twangy guitars, one-two drum beats and vocals of desperate wanting.
Musically, Ceremony is dangerous. The sound is stringy and scathing. The album actually lacks a certain amount of physical matter one would expect from a hardcore or punk band. I don’t want to call it thin, because it packs a hell of a punch, but the songs on Rohnert Park exist at the frayed ends of being. They are bodies tattered by too much violence and are crawling across the pavement, blood and bits of bone being lost in a trail. Vultures circle over head waiting for them to die.
Beyond all of that though, the song writing is precise. Each track drills into your ears, swirls around in the frontal lobe and then smacks against the back of your skull with metal pots. All of this clangy, clatter has to contend with barked vocals from a man who sounds like he was just strangled. This is not the empowerment, hyper anger we are used to. Nope, Ceremony are just clawing up the walls in an attempt to stand upright, propping themselves against drywall that is replete with holes. They can’t win.
In 1998, Refused released The Shape of Punk to Come to an unsuspecting public. That album bent and reshaped the genre of hardcore forever. To this day, no band has done within the genre of hardcore what Refused did. They didn’t just create their version of hardcore, they redefined it in a way that neither their contemporaries nor future bands influenced by them could accomplish. Ceremony has done something quite similar. The core values inherit in punk rock exist on Rohnert Park but it is done so in a musical vernacular that is specific to the people responsible for writing and crafting the music. It is not an album that could have been made at any other time or in any other place then where it was. It is the unique response to the environment, so violently pushed down our throats. I’ve never felt so comfortable.