Mall Caste // Escalator
Recommended Track: Decorative Class
Portland, Oregon: a Pacific Northwest town that has come to be defined by Fred Armison and Carrie Brownstein as a quirky, hipster-infested Mecca for twenty-somethings who play in adult Hide-n-Seek leagues and put birds on everything. Last year I thought to myself, “Hey, I’m almost twenty, I can find unique hiding spots, I like Sleater-Kinney, why not move there?” I’ve been here for about four months and I was under the mistaken impression that The Thermals were as punk as PDX got, aside from the folk guitar and banjo playing street kids. That all changed upon hearing the angsty-straightforward-hardcore EP Escalator, the debut release from Mall Caste.
The 6-Track EP wastes no time establishing itself as fast-paced, pissed-off, and holding true to DIY ethics. The first song, “Blood Engine/ Mall Caste Hate Police” starts immediately with a bone-saw lo-fi guitar riff and upbeat bass line followed by nostalgic punk vocals singing, “The only thing worse than a racist white man / is a racist white man with the law in his right hand.” The echoing refrain of, “The whole system runs on blood” lets you know this record is going to sting with 80’s inspired hardcore.
Tracks like “Parasomnia” blur the line between melodic and thrash, the result being a heavy banging garage-punk song that feels like a cross between the Descendants (circa Milo Goes to College) and Suicidal Tendencies. The self-professed genre, “No Wave” never seemed more aptly named.
Rounding off the release is the band’s distorted pop-punk song, “Decorative Class,” that is arguably the best song on the album While being a tad more melodic, the lyrics do not hold back in commenting on the “artsy” culture of Portland. Lines like, “You’re not part of the creative class / You’re not a hag you’re not a punk / You’re just more of that yuppie scum” should be posted outside of all the pop-up boutiques that are the telltale symptom of bourgeois gentrification.
While Escalator does not run longer than 12 minutes, the feedback and heavy distortion seem to linger long after I’ve stopped listening. While I can’t quite tell if I am about to start slam-dancing or get chopped to pieces, I am at the very least thankful for something nostalgically yet new to emerge and I cannot wait for them to play some shows.