Round Eye have been steadily building a cult-like following for over half a decade now, and in their latest album – appropriately titled Culture Shock Treatment – they unleash their most evocative and potently intense statement on life, politics and the human condition yet. From the get-go in the album’s title track through the textured grooves of “The Foreigner” and “You’re so Fucking Cool,” there’s nothing that can slow this band’s momentum once they get started. You don’t have to be a big punk fan to like this record, but for those of us who wear the badge with pride, it’s a shot of life for certain.
The beat in “Smokestack,” the lead single from Culture Shock Treatment (which boasts quite the intriguing video as well) is debatably as much of a mood-setter as any of the fretwork and lyrics are, allowing for us to feel the stress of the tempo while trying to keep up with the mad pace of the drums in the background. All of the material here tends to be on the elaborate side, especially for a contemporary alternative release, but excess is persona non grata from the start jump. Round Eye have no time for fake plasticity in their new album; truth be told, they’re out to assassinate such nonsense in this record.
There’s almost no breathing room in the master mix of “5000 Years,” “Magaman,” “Armadillo Man,” “Endless Sleep” and the rather loose-grooving “Red Crimes,” and when combined with the overall tightness of the arrangements, it makes these songs even more imposing than they already would have been. Efficiency is utilized as a means of maximizing physicality in Culture Shock Treatment, and though Round Eye have never been one to buck traditional DIY values in the studio, their adherence to the principles of salad days-era SST is something to respect here.
I really like the way that the tension is built up in the tracklist as we near the finish line, with “An Opportunity of a Lifetime” setting us up for the likes of “Uomo Moderno,” “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” and “Endless Sleep” in a way “Circumstances” or “Catatonic (I’m Not a Communist)” never could have. Something tells me that the band spent a lot of time working out the kinks to make every moment here feel more like a page-turning novel than a straight-up mix of messy punk tunes, and if they didn’t, they ran into one heck of a happy accident in the final product of their studio sessions.
Culture Shock Treatment is everything its title would suggest it is and more, and if you ask me, it’s one of the most legit rock albums you’re going to hear right now. 2020 is far from over, and this is by no means the only indie offering that I would deem a hot listen this July, but audiences that are sick of searching for something with a little extra meat on its bones needn’t look any further for a good time than this fifteen-track smorgasbord.
by Babette Cook