The hardcore world is currently experiencing an embarrassment of riches. For better and worse, hardcore is receiving more attention than it has for a long time. That also means more musicians are seeing opportunities. As the genre du jour, hardcore has had an influx of bands who are savvy enough to see where ears and eyes are directed these days and who are too eager to jump on that wagon before time passes. There is a type of paint-by-numbers approach to a lot of their music that does not inhibit their success at all, as they’re doing what’s worked for hardcore for decades.
Meanwhile, there are also many bands whose music is sincere enough, innovative enough, and heartfelt enough to offset the derivative stuff. These bands, careful listeners can tell, would not be doing anything differently if hardcore were currently outré, if it were relegated to the underground from which it sprang. These bands are doing something real that feels cathartic, the sounds simultaneously classic and futuristic. San Diego bands Tourist, Department of Education, Bayonet, and Headcount all fall into this latter category, as they dedicate care to crafting their songs with thoughtfulness and gut feeling. It is no coincidence, then, that when musicians from these four bands came together to form Human Resources, they produced something visceral, brilliant, and true.
Loyal Cvlt Nation readers should know already that this band is the real deal, as we’ve covered Tourist here, and even included them in our 2022 powerviolence + grindcore highlights here. While the craftsmanship is as tight and pulverizing in Human Resources as it is in the individual artists’ other musical outlets, this project finds the musicians stripping down to a more stripped-down hardcore, drawing comparisons to 80s British hardcore like The Flex and their modern descendants like The Executed; to New England tough guy hardcore like Peace Test, Dragged, and No Tolerance; to Denver-based Youth Attack brawlers like Cadaver Dog and The Consequence; and to fellow California powerhouses like Spy and Scalp. That said, while their sound invites comparisons to some of the best to ever explore the genre, Human Resources are their own monster.
In keeping with the deceptively benign naming conventions of Tourist and Department of Education, Human Resources is not a band name that, on a shirt, would keep you from boarding an aircraft; however, the songs themselves, when played over a loudspeaker at your local Denny’s or Waffle House, would likely cause all the clientele simultaneously to grab the nearest metal chair and frenziedly drive it through a plate glass window, or through their neighbor’s skull.
Opening track, “Stranger” is circle-pit-summoning tom-heavy stomper that, through crowd-killing rhythms–particularly on the song’s mid-tempo bridge–meditates on the all-too-common experience of seeing someone you cared about becoming a ghost of their former self, whether it be due to drugs, depression, or simple lack of ambition. “Outlast” boasts a stuttering syncopation that defies the listener to stand still as the rhythms hit them right in the pelvis. The kind of subtle tempo trickery they employ on this trick is exactly the kind of nuanced stylistic innovation that has made the musicians’ other projects so compelling, and it is a pleasure to see them doing it here as vocalist Gabriel admonishes the listener to “grab [life] by the throat and tear it apart.”
“Insurgent” continues in the vein of rhythmic invention, balancing stuttering bass and drum palpitations against open-chord ringing feedback and utilizing rests brilliantly. Both that song and “Stolen Valor” call out the falseness exhibited in so many people, whether it be the false toughness of the chicken-hawk variety or the false claim to being a misunderstood outsider simply in order to feel special.
It’s appropriate that this kind of theme, this chastisement of the unreal, would weave through the album. Human Resources, though they have clear sonic influences, are only creatively indebted to themselves, making no apologies and making no sacrifices, with a gritty realness that is too rare in this era of hardcore notoriety.
“Pack Predator” targets the weakness of people who rely on crowd affiliation for safety, for power, for identity and it threatens to introduce them to real, genuine strength, to cast light on their softness. The carpal-tunnel-inducing speed of “Saint,” a song about grandstanding, holier-than-thou scene-arbiters, eventually turns into one of the most satisfying cut-time-breakdowns of the year.
“Ungovernable” is a keystone to the album, a mission statement for the band. In essence, it claims “No Gods, No Masters, No Bullshit,” shifting the focus from the falseness exhibited in others to the real values and beliefs of the speaker. Here the barking vocals, swarming guitars, and pulse-quickening drums open up for the walking-rhythm bass to cue what will certainly be large crowds of dedicated fans to storm the stage to join in on gang vocals: “Ancient beliefs are such silly things! I’ll live my life however I please!”
Album closer, “Voluntary Victim,” deals with the very challenging but very important task of cutting off those who are willing to cling to those who will help them, even if it means bringing everyone down with them. Whether it’s addressing addiction or some other brand of codependence, this song is an appropriate cap to an album built on identifying falseness, posturing, weakness, and parasitism, and on sticking to one’s own values, even when–especially when–those values contradict those of the complacent majority.
It should come as no surprise that this debut is daring, powerful, and fantastic, considering the roster of bands with whom it shares members, the songs Human Resources has composed for this have a surprising amount of heart and sincerity. This is a band that, with any luck, will go on to influence more bands to buck the hardcore flavors of the day and do what feels real at the gut level. That’s the stuff that will really become a legacy. Although they’ve just barely set their pen to paper, this band feels like they’ve already written the book.
Be sure to pick up the Policies and Compliance cassette when it drops, and see Human Resources at these stacked San Diego dates if you can.
Feb 19 with NYC’s L.O.T.I.O.N., Abuso de Poder, Crime Desire
Mar 11 with Praise, Glean, Stateside, Bent Blue
April 30 with Saetia, Deaf Club, Entry
Art and layout by Mark McCoy.
Tracked and mixed by Erick Garcia at Dogwhistle.
Mastered by Will Killingsworth at Dead Air.
Photos by Daniel Rodriguez and Ben Forman.