Street Sects - “Rat Jacket”
Stream and buy the EP here.
Street Sects is an experimental music duo from Texas who, since their inception in 2013, has taken the world of industrial music by a storm with their aggressive twist on the genre. Their first two EPs, Gentrification I and Gentrification II, showcased their style of fast, angry power electronics. The genre is usually mid-paced and noisy, but Street Sects have a hardcore edge that gives them a speed and adrenaline unusual for the genre. Last year, they released their debut LP End Position, which took what their previous two EPs did and gave it structure, both musically and conceptually: I remember reading the PDF file that came packaged with the digital download for End Position and being amazed at the story, the which is just messed up. Now, a year later, the duo are back with Rat Jacket, four brand new tracks in roughly 18 minutes.
This is the first thing that caught my eye, because if you just take a look at the song lengths, you’ll notice that Rat Jacket’s songs are longer than most of End Position’s songs. They justify the length of these tracks by showing how much more they have to offer than their previous material. Street Sects is no longer just a power-electronics duo whose goal is to be as crushing and noisy as possible. This EP is much more conventional industrial music with a tinge of goth, lending it a cold, melancholic aura as shown right away on first track “Blacken the Other Eye.” Street Sects aren’t done with the old sound, as tracks like “Total Immunity” and “Early Release” explore the noisier side of the band, but these noise sections are much more focused t. Never does it feel like they’re being noisy for the sake of it, but they keep the EP varied and consistent.
And don’t let Leo’s cleaner, smoother vocal style fool you: the lyrics behind these songs are very much typical of Street Sects, in that they’re as fucked up as ever. “Blacken the Other Eye” deals with a murder, presumably over money, as lyrics like “Dead on arrival, one through the roof of the mouth” and “The ultimate payday, no one cares / Reputation, nothing but paper now / We sold ourselves out” seem to demonstrate. He says his victim was “free,” but his second victim, a woman, was “almost free,” implying she may have been a prostitute. Lyrics such as “You don’t like the violence, but you like the respect it commands” seem to imply that he may have abused her, and after she dies, the narrator explains how he will keep her memory alive. It creeped me out. “Total Immunity” is his arrest (“Yes I know we were friends then / but those friendships are dead / Chalk it up to time served”), ending in a dramatic yell of “You can’t touch me.”
On “Early Release,” although he claims not to be sorry for anything, refuses to talk - “They can take all my money away / they can break every bone in my face / I will not talk” - and escapes, leading directly into “In Prison, At Least I Had You,” which is easily the most disturbing song title of the year. This song graphically details a prison rape, with lyrics like “A life down the shower drain / Weight dropping, force feeding / well it’s just a fucking jail.” The anger and passion of this section crawled under my skin, as did the title’s implication that the protagonist seems to have enjoyed the experience before escaping to a new life (“I can’t shake this feeling I have that I’m living another man’s life….Four thousand, bi-monthly, my name off the pink slip / Clean record, no zip code, their lives were a package deal”). By the end of the song, he comes face to face with Death, but shows no fear: “You can run from Death but in the end you’ll beg her to draw closer.” His epitaph is a sample of a lady stating it would be easier to keep sober if she had some other man’s troubles.
Lyrically, this EP is as grotesque as music is going to get this year. It’s not just the subject matter, but also the disgusting manner in which they’re delivered. Musically, this is one of the most depressing projects I’ve heard this year, which just makes the lyrics even grosser. My only complaint is that I want more. I hope Street Sects continues in this direction, because we need more of what they are doing here.