Punk is a Rorschach blot, a medium that seems to mean something different to everyone who engages with it. The spectrum is as wide today as ever, with Green Day still gunning for Voice of a Generation–hood on 2012 triple album Uno…Dos…Trés! and L.A.’s FIDLAR epitomizing Tumblr-era vapidity on a recent self-titled debut. The Beauty Between, the new, second full-length by Olympia, Washington’s RVIVR, and one of the best punk records in recent memory, embodies a whole other aesthetic. The album whisks the listener back two decades, to a time when bands such as Virginia’s Avail and California’s Face to Face were reconciling post-hardcore idealism with the search for the perfect hook.
The Beauty Between can feel like a fierce yet friendly duel between guitarist-singers Mattie Canino and Erica Freas, each a passion-spewing dynamo with a masterful grasp of melodic shout-and-shred. But the record is at its strongest when the pair is trading lines (“LMD”) or screaming in ragged, glorious unison (“The Hunger Suite”).
RVIVR adheres to strict DIY values, offering pay-what-you-wish downloads and condemning sexism and homophobia. But in contrast with its hometown riot-grrrl forebears, the group doesn’t fixate on button-pushing radicalism. Like many of the best punk bands, RVIVR privileges emotion over dogma, capturing the tug-of-war between adolescent dreams and the scary adult world. What results are concise, profoundly urgent anthems, songs that all of us—the overachiever, the burnout and everyone in between—can point to and say, “Been there; felt that.”—Hank Shteamer
Follow Hank Shteamer on Twitter: @DarkForcesSwing