Out of context, an album called “Peach” may lead an uninitiated listener to imagine songs that are soft and sweet — like the fruit. The ten tracks that are banged out by Culture Abuse on their debut LP are far from soft and are only sweet in the colloquial use of the word.
Culture Abuse is a six-piece rock band that emerged from San Francisco in late 2013. Despite releasing two EPs and making a name for themselves by touring rigorously in small clubs and the DIY circuit, the band seems more prepared than ever to make a significant jump in audience size with the release of “Peach.” These ten songs are heavier — emotionally and sonically — and catchier than anything in their catalog.
Punk rock is something that all of the band’s members seem to have in common. Several of the group’s members have played in punk bands in the past and all of them undoubtedly grew up listening to the genre. “Peach,” however, is not a run-of-the-mill punk album. The band utilizes the three-chord method of songwriting on numerous cuts and the running time is 30 minutes, but the album’s gritty, heavy-handed chugging and wailing guitar licks are reminiscent of early ’90s alternative rock. Singer David Kelling’s impassioned, cavernous vocal style also calls to mind several bands from the grunge movement.
“Peach” also strays from punk stereotypes due to the fact that the album was produced quite professionally. There is still feedback ringing at the beginning and ending of songs, but it never interferes with the clarity of any instrument.
Talented songwriting and quality sound aside, the real thing that makes “Peach” one of the year’s standout rock records is its lyrics and its delivery of those lyrics. The album was written in the wake of the deaths of two prominent members of the Northern California punk scene — Sammy Winston and Tim Butcher. Opening track “Chinatown” directly addresses one of those deaths along with the San Francisco Police Department’s killing of a civilian down the street from where Kelling was living. Kelling belts out every lyric as if it was his last.
Death is also the subject of the song “Peace On Earth.” Kelling reveals that he has been drowning in thoughts of his own mortality along with his parents’, while disregarding topics such as the weather and politics as comparatively trivial. He asks for the listener’s approval when he admits that the battles being fought in his head take up more of his attention than those being fought in foreign countries. If nothing else, Culture Abuse is honest.
Other key moments on “Peach” include the urgently emotive “Jealous” that features snare hits like shotgun blasts, the chilled-out apathy of “Rainy Days,” and the solemn and wistful closing track “Heavy Love.”
Culture Abuse shifts from several characteristics of their base genre on “Peach,” but executes those shifts flawlessly to create half an hour of simplistic and invigorating rock ‘n’ roll anthems that are undeniably punk in spirit. Fans will jam “Peach” while lying in bed after a long day and while pounding their steering wheels in traffic. They will also be dogpiling in front of the microphone at concerts and screaming every word back at the band. It’s hard not to do those things when a set of songs so precisely encapsulates the feelings of frustration and redemption that nearly every person feels while growing up in 21st century America.