I’m probably going to have to eat some words here. But what can I do, genres and personal history and such are a tricky thing. So let me just come out right now and say it, I like this Cerebral Ballzy record.I think as a punk record, produced in 2011 and influenced by obscure skate punk bands from the 80’s, it’s a pretty good homage to a sound that even punk rock has mostly forgotten. We’ll get more into that in a bit, though. I feel like it’s necessary for me to be upfront though about my feelings for this album.
Sometimes, I cant help but question the authenticity of an artist. I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing either. And though it is much easier to do it with bands in genres you only have a cursory knowledge of, it should probably be done more with bands in genres you are pretty familiar with. Somehow, I am less willing to give someone in hip-hop or black metal the benefit of the doubt because while those are significant parts of my record collection, they are paled by punk rock bands from all over the place. Punk rock is something I feel I am somewhat of an authority on. Not like an academic authority, but it’s the type of music I have been listening to most consistently since I was 13 and found Black Flag’s The First Four Years in my possession and decided everything else, including death metal, was full of a bunch of posers.
The thrashier, faster, snottier, angrier and all out chaotic a band is, the better. There are many different types of punk rock music, but the kind that really gets me is the kind that speaks to that 13-year-old boy that still lives inside me and largely operates every aspect of my life. So when I first Cerebral Ballzy, a New York City band of young boys, I felt a certain kinship to the sounds that were rattling my brain. I knew nothing about them, having only caught a whiff of their name after a viewing of the latest Mastodon video, which is AMAZING and a part of an ad campaign that KIA is doing with Adult Swim. So it seems that Cerebral Ballzy is in bed with some potentially not so punk people.
There’s been a lot of chit-chat I’ve come across about how CB are just a punch of hipster, posers from NYC better at networking than actually being a punk band. There’s not much of an argument for this. Their slick video for “Insufficient Fare” is more MTV worthy then VHS dubbed. Further, they’re loved by hipster darlings Trash Talk and OFF!, who have a fair amount of DIY credibility or straight up punk rock history. But rarely is the talk about the music itself. It seems people want to focus more on the fact that they are from Brooklyn then the music they make.
In my mind, location doesn’t have a lot to do with it. I’m not a big fan of music that comes out of New York City personally. It’s cool for cool’s sake. And there just seems to be nothing cool about Cerebral Ballzy. They seem like five 21-year-old kids that actually grew up in NYC. They sure carry themselves that way in the video I have seen. Further, their music takes cues from some pretty seriously overlooked bands. Skate Rock, as it was always dubbed by Thrasher Magazine when I was growing up was this very snotty, snarky side of punk rock that always seemed to be made by kids. It was the music of those dudes that loved punk, but loved skating too and spent more time out in the sun with their boards. Their songs were often less fixed, about to fall off the edge and not nearly as well rehearsed. And while Cerebral Ballzy recorded with Joby Ford, so it sounds bigger and cleaner then one might expect, these guys don’t seem that great at their instruments. The guitar parts aren’t that strong. The bass, it’s pretty simple. The drummer is fast, but you can hear the takes in his arms. Our lead singer, he’s the best aspect of the band, and in punk rock, has the easiest job. He happens to have a great, bratty voice.
You throw in songs about skating, being broke, skipping school, this is not the music of twenty something hipster kids living off mommy and daddy. This is about street kids and their day. It’s all too familiar in so many aspects, the anthems of children from working class parents absent between 3 and 6 once the last school bell rings.