How much can you pack into just two songs? If you’re Open City, the answer is a ton. The hardcore quartet’s new 7” record City of Ash is seven minutes of incredibly powerful, poignant, and fun music. You might not consider ‘fun’ as being an important quality when it comes to purposely political art, but nobody wants to listen to something that is dull, even if it does share their ideals. Think of it as a ‘the medium is the message’ sort of thing. City of Ash is anything but dull.
This is the band’s second release after last year’s full length self-titled album. While that was conceived and recorded in 2016, this was created entirely during the current presidency and it shows. Which is not to say that the band’s anger wasn’t somehow relevant or palpable before last January, because it very much was. But as lead singer Rachel Rubino told The Key: “Making music and art during this current political climate feels to me at times to be the only way I can navigate something positive and find release through a completely hopeless epic disaster. It’s hard not to feel discouraged and helpless when our nation appears to be a raging stinking trash fire.”
Although the band might eschew the “supergroup” label – and rightfully so, as that phrase tends to be steeped in nostalgia – it’s hard to not think about everything each member brings to the table when you’re listening to these songs. Before Open City, Rubino played guitar in Bridge and Tunnel. Bassist Andy Nelson is in Ceremony, Paint It Black, and Dark Blue. Chris Wilson plays drums in Ted Leo and the Pharmacists and Hound. And guitarist Dan Yemin is also in Paint It Black and was a member of Lifetime, Kid Dynamite, and another bunch of stalwarts, Armalite.
But focusing on the individual members and their respective resumes isn’t going to get you anywhere. What’s important, in so many ways, is the present. Open City’s music very much reflects their constant need to not exist in the past, to not in any way coast by on previous accomplishments. Listening to the songs you can hear Rubino’s heartfelt vocals rising above the swirling mix of poppy, mid-tempo hardcore and noisy, angular punk. It’s the sort of thing that makes you feel like you need to sing along, like adding your own voice is the only thing that’s going to make the song sound even more perfect.
While Open City might be very cynical about the state of the world, they’re not giving up anytime soon. As Rubino explained, “There is hope to be found still and as before, in the big and small acts of kindness. There are so many layers to this internal and external struggle. It is personal, it is communal, and sometimes I feel the only thing saving us is what little threads tie us together. Some small similarity. As much compassion as we can manage through a collective strange and devastating heartbreak.”
Open City is playing two record release shows this weekend, Friday in Doylestown with Pinkwash and Downtrodder and Saturday in West Philly with those two bands and Kilamanzego. More information can be found on their Facebook page.