Heaven Is Earth

Self Defense Family

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Heaven Is Earth Review

by Mark Deming

D. Boon of the Minutemen once famously said, "Punk is whatever we made it to be," and Self Defense Family are one band who appear to have taken Boon's words to heart. The group's second album as Self Defense Family (after the collective recorded three LPs and a stack of singles and EPs as End of a Year), 2015's Heaven Is Earth, is certainly punk rock in spirit, though this band clearly has no interest in the standard template of four/four stomp and a hail of downstroked guitar. On Heaven Is Earth, Self Defense Family build a chain-link fence of sound, with decisive bass and drum patterns woven through guitar figures strummed or pummeled into minimal melodic structures as vocalist and first-among-equals Patrick Kindlon rants and bellows over it all. If it's not what most folks would think of as punk, it sounds smart, defiant, and full of rabble-rousing spirit, which is a lot truer to the spirit of punk than having a Mohawk in the long run. Numbers like "In My Defens Self Me Defend" (in which some cranky guy spews out a long list of things vital to others that are of no concern to him) and "Ditko" (which ponders the notion of property and trust) play out more like performance pieces than actual songs, but they're good performance pieces, clever and intellectually challenging, and when Self Defense Family do tackle something more like a tune, they connect strongly on "Everybody Wants a Prize for Feeling" and "Prison Ring," where Kindlon's declamatory style actually works to the advantage of the music. Maybe you can't pogo or mosh to it, but Heaven Is Earth is the kind of music that will please those with a taste for aural experimentation and annoy the narrow-minded, and that is punk rock in all the best ways.

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