If Middle Class Rut had gears then their new album, Pick Up Your Head, would truly rip the gear box out in a psychotic rage. Where No Name No Color had a tempered and balanced sound, there is now disarray and a chunkier vibe. ‘Born Too Late’ begins with a thunderous stampede of drums, but locks into their socio-political lyricism once more.
It’s the obvious but brilliant next step for the band who told America to “lock up their shit” and that “the enemy” was outside the door. Fear abroad and at home bred their debut and made it a scorcher, now the focus appears to be on the lost generation. ‘Sing While You Slave’ owes its message to the underappreciated workers and soldiers, while ‘Aunt Betty’ strains the question, “Why don’t you believe in me?”
You can’t have it all though. ‘Leech’ is a typical hit out at former lovers and ‘Policeman’ seems gender confused, screaming, “She’s a policeman”. This second album feels like it lacks the cohesive punch of their debut, but that was a difficult album to top.
The vocals sound like a sandstorm this time around and, although it fits the bigger, louder, faster theme, it might give you a headache unless you’re music library is already steeped in hardcore screamo and metal (in which case it will sound like bunnies serenading one another in the sunshine). Though the riffs are powerful, they aren’t as memorable as they were on No Name No Color. That might be partially down to the production and the way the drums soak up all the space, forcing everything else to the edges of your attention.
Shades of Rage Against the Machine are more obvious this time, while the album in its entirety has more in common with Sum 41’s Chuck. That being said, they are cutting out their own path as the band who will stick two fingers up to the man and lambast the state of affairs. The descent into anarchy – the punk taking a dump on an old lady’s doorstep – is close at hand, though, and needs to be kept at bay to maintain the focus of their message. The leaner sound of their debut had more clout with less effort.