Ceremony’s latest album has been available as a full stream for a few days now, and the Internet is suitably impressed. Hardcore, punk, and metal have all had to do extra duty in recent years, picking up the slack for what is missing in good rock music. Younger bands such as Doomriders, Black Breath, and Baptists have propped up the heavier end of the pole with driving, 4/4, 3-minute-thirty-second doses of rock, while veterans such as the once-hardcore straight-edgers who made up California’s Ceremony are now producing something that sounds more like the bands you would have found on their current label, Matador, in the late nineties and early oughts: post-punk, post-hardcore… something that sounds a lot like good rock music, anyway.
I’m not suggesting that we’ve arrived at some sort of genre-free nirvana where good music is like just good music, man, but I am saying that excellent albums like Zoo demonstrate a laudable movement in song-based, guitar driven music: grown-ups making cross-genre music that can most easily be called rock, as it contains too many damn sub-genres for anyone but the most pompous music reviewer to list or care about. [I’m only the third-most pompous music reviewer; I occasionally use semi-colons, but I can’t bring
myself to give a shit about Jandek, so I’ll never make the top spot.
I’m not sure if the guys in Ceremony still steer clear of drinks, casual sex, and steak, but they have cast aside a lot of the fast, aggressive, and confrontational approach that is most commonly related to straight-edge hardcore. Songs on Zoo such as “Hotel” aren’t exactly gentle and introspective, but there are melodic and slow-building tunes all over this record. Dynamics can be punk too.
There’s lyrical diversity [and audibility] here, too: album closer “Video,” in particular, is built around an abstract narrative that haunts in a way that hardcore usually doesn’t. I’d venture to say that Ross Farrar’s approach is poetic, a word that seems out of step with the way he can create circle-pit frenzy with a few well-screamed lines—but that sort of juxtaposition is possible in rock.