Open City are a four piece hardcore band from Philadelphia. The band features singer and lyricist Rachel Rubino (Bridge And Tunnel, Worriers), bassist Andy Nelson (Paint It Black, Ceremony, Dark Blue), guitarist Dan Yemin (Paint It Black, Lifetime, Kid Dynamite, Armalite), and drummer Chris Wilson (Ted Leo & the Pharmacists). With that collection of talent Open City could quite easily be described as an East Bay supergroup. Back in January Open City released their debut self titled album. With that collection of members this was only ever going to be fantastic.
Hell Hath No Fury is the title of the open track. The song wastes absolutely no time in getting incredibly ferocious. Rachel Rubino's lyrics hit hard as she sings a song about how men should not mess with any women, if they do they should be prepared to fight back. The final verse in particular really stood out to me - "I Know You'd Like It If We Just Sat Silent And Never Challenged Your Ideas, So Here's How We Feel, Here's What We Want, Here's What We Need: To Be Heard." From the opening track it's clear there is some superb lyrics to hear on this album. Up next is the song Whose God? This, unlike the opening track is a more measured approach to the hardcore genre. It's still super heavy but every note feels like it has a lot of intent behind it. I guess it's not over surprising given the talent in the band but the musicianship on this track is absolutely superb, accompanied by Rubino's throaty vocals, this song is about people using religion as an excuse for using a gun. Rubino repeatedly screams "Whose God Gave You That Gun?" For Shame is another different sounding song. Anyone who thinks all hardcore music sounds the same needs to listen to Open City. This is far slower than the previous two tracks and is the first to really show off Rubino's abilities as a singer as well as a screamer.
The fourth song on the album is also the longest. Black Veils is a slow plodding so about returning to a past lover after being apart and discovering that things aren't the same as they were before. The song remains at a slower pace throughout apart from its finale where after a lengthy bass line Rubino's voice gradually builds towards its trademark growl and finishes the song in an intense fashion. On The Spit brings back the hardcore ferocity of the opening track. At just fifty-four seconds long it's a short track but my word does it hit you hard. This track is about overly macho guys who go to gigs just to be violent. I particularly enjoyed the crunching guitars at the beginning of the song, adding a great deal of force to the opening of the track. You can just imagine a circle pit opening up as Dan Yemin begins to play this song. Brother, I'm Getting Nowhere is another fast paced song. This was probably my favourite song on the album. It's about the frustrations of trying to make a difference but feeling like you're not getting anywhere. I loved the switch in melody for the final verse of the song, it has more of a melodic, dare I say poppy sound as Rubino shouts out "All These Words They Don't Mean Shit, Well All You Do Is Yell At Bricks." On my first listen of the seventh song, Night Shift I was sort of reminded of the British punk band Caves, except Open City have much more snarl about them. This was another of my favourites from the record. Night Shift is about fighting for a cause you believe in despite people not getting it.
Nerve Centre gives you know time to rest between songs as it immediately starts another hardcore assault. Nerve Centre is about feeling like you're stuck in the wrong job and that you've given up on what you belief in. This whole thing is summed up brilliantly in the second verse - "I Am Tired And You Are Right, We've Given Up The Fight, Trading My Cards In For Other Efforts, Find A Place Where I Can, Be More Effective, What A Fucking Joke." The penultimate song on Open City is named Sofa Drugs. The first thing I noticed is the difference in guitar sounds, there is a smooth rolling style to go along with Rubino's growls creating a fantastic unique sound. It sounds as if there are two different melodies being played in the song, especially during the verse. This keeps the album sounding fresh right up until it's final track Honest As A Sunday Morning. Honest As A Sunday Morning has a bit of an epic feel to it, making it the best choice for the final song on the album. Compared to most of the album it feels slightly more chilled out, which is a phrase I didn't think I'd use to describe anything on Open City. Honest As A Sunday Morning is a song about looking at your life choices and wondering if you're being true to yourself or just making a great big mess of things. I loved that the album finishes with the line "I'm Tired But I'm Not Slowing Down." To me this is not only a slogan to live your life by but a great metaphor to end the album on. As it fades out it does leave you wanting more from the band and makes you interested to hear what the band do next.
Stream and download Open City here: https://theeopencity.bandcamp.com/album/open-city
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This review was written by Colin Clark.