Downtown Boys

Full Communism

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Phil Ochs once said, "If there's any hope for a revolution in America, it lies in getting Elvis Presley to become Che Guevara." Downtown Boys are a band who don't look or sound anything like Elvis (or Phil Ochs, for that matter), but their first full album, 2015's Full Communism, suggests on some level they get the essence of Ochs' idea -- if rock is going to promote dramatic political and social change, it's going to have to be exciting and engaging, not to mention broadly inclusive. And while Downtown Boys are a furiously ranting, racially and sexually integrated punk rock band who don't shy away from the specifics of the issues that matter to them as they shout down racism, homophobia, misogyny, economic injustice, prisons for profit, and the crippling weight of hegemony, they are that rare band that find a palpable, inspiring joy in their fury. Lead singer Victoria Ruiz is a glorious ball of righteous fire on these songs, jumping back and forth between English and Spanish as she sings with a force that could shake the foundations of an empire ... and she sounds like she's having a great time doing it, despite the seriousness of her message and approach. And Downtown Boys' songs are full-bore pogo punk with a difference; the melodies may be simple, but they're catchy as all get out, and with two saxophones joining the drums and guitars, these songs sing out with an undertow that finds room for R&B, jazz, and early rock & roll accents. When this band hits fifth gear (where they spend most of Full Communism), they swing, and swing hard. Perhaps Crass could get thousands of people to shout along with them, but Downtown Boys can get you to shout their messages and dance while you do it, and while the revolution would never be a party, Full Communism would be the perfect soundtrack for the victory celebration -- you'd have to go back to the MC5 to find a band that combined purposeful rage and passionate rock & roll energy as well as Downtown Boys.

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