‘Body War’, the debut album from New York then-newcomers Show Me The Body, was a wrenching, hulking mass of flesh, bone and blood. In keeping with its title, it felt visceral – like the twisting, snapping spine of a generation holding far too much weight. Packed full of takedowns of gentrification, class inequality and the brutality of the big-city streets, bile-filled vocalist Julian Cashwan-Pratt seeming fit for breakdown at any point, it was the negative image to the New York of postcards and television; a snapshot of a city in disarray, and the underclass bearing the brunt of it.
By contrast to that attention-grabbing debut, ‘Dog Whistle’ feels like it has room to breathe. Make no mistake – the jarring noise and harsh sonics that made one of DIY punk’s most idiosyncratic voices remain. But amongst all the chaos, the trio – completed by multi-instrumentalist Harlan Steed and drummer Noah Cohen-Corbett – find a sense of clarity.
‘Dog Whistle’ is, at its core, a dedication to the community, friends and family at the heart of Show Me The Body, and their arts collective-meets-record label Corpus. ‘Madonna Rocket’, a banjo-led, foot-on-the-gas stormer of a track, exemplifies this best. “When I meet someone that’s good, I wanna die with them,” declares Cashwan-Pratt, “Dead friends, I still wanna say goodbye to them – all I have is family / I would die with them.” A far cry from ‘Body War’’s non-stop anger, ‘Dog Whistle’ refashions that energy into holding up the community around the trio.
That’s not to say that Show Me The Body have gone soft. While they’ve been vocal about their disgust at punk being used as a political tool, the likes of ‘Camp Orchestra’ and ‘Badge Grabber’ are as harsh as ever, striking out at injustice around them. The former – partially inspired by a trip to Auschwitz as part of their European tour – takes on the structures that perpetuate social inequality (“no work will set you free”), while the latter uses thumping techno sonics to channel the heart-rate-juddering experience of coming face-to-face with the corrupt law enforcers that plague their New York home.
The production is slicker, the songwriting more considered, and the statement more solidified. Peppered with spoken-word interludes, Cashwan-Pratt laying himself bare like never before, ‘Dog Whistle’ is a manifesto for everything Show Me The Body’s early days promised. ‘Body War’ was their chaotic opening gambit, a stick of dynamite at the foot of established order. Now, together, the band are building something better.