By: Cameron Piko
The Display Team | website | facebook | bandcamp |
Released on April 20, 2016 via Opposing Forces
Shifts, The Display Team’s second record and first release in seven years, is relentlessly upbeat. The band describe themselves as pronk (progressive punk), sprog (ska prog) and presumably many other lewd sounding, one-syllable genre labels. All this is to say that the band are obviously unsatisfied with sticking to one particular style. Instead, the six-piece (made up of drums, bass, two guitars, trombone and trumpet, with all members contributing vocals) play a genre-hopping mix of ska, punk, metal and prog that manages to stay upbeat even at its most intense.
On the surface, this all sounds vaguely reminiscent of Mr. Bungle’s first album, and even the drummer’s pseudonym (Chuckles the Clown) evokes the iconic band’s carnival atmosphere. Luckily, the band’s emphasis on punk and ska rhythms as the foundation of most of the tracks both secures the music’s aforementioned buoyancy and means that you never feel like you’re listening to a tribute act – twenty or so seconds of Bungle homage in ‘Corpus of Lies’ aside.
Instead, this is defiant and charged punk from a group that have serious chops. They only showcase this latter fact when necessary; The Display Team cannot keep still for very long, and thus find themselves having to deftly navigate through a veritable jungle of riffs at a moment’s notice. In terms of sheer technicality, bassist Ozrick takes the cake as he frontloads the album with fast-paced grooves that send him all over the neck.
It’s not just the instrumentation that gives the band their appeal, however. As mentioned earlier, everyone in the group provides vocals. This leads to moments of interesting harmonies and counter melodies, but more importantly when four or more of them sing together it adds an instant immediacy and gravity to the music. When their vocal powers combine, it’s as if you are beholding Megazord with a clown’s face in battle. Or Voltron. Or whatever your personal preference for a large robot comprised of smaller parts may be.
While Shifts is best digested as a whole, ‘Epitaph’ is the absolute standout track. Drummer/vocalist Chuckles simultaneously plays the 6/8 punk beat that propels the music and shout-sings the defiant, fist pump-inducing vocals. The guitars become increasingly heavier in spite of the slower brass lines that play over the top (another act of defiance here), and backing vocals intertwine as the music surges. Suddenly, the music collapses and the group play a quiet, deconstructed version of the verse before exploding once more, this time the horns besting the guitars in battle for the finale. Other highlights include the time signature hopping album opener ‘A Summer of Subservience’, its follow up ‘Mercy Nurse’, and the incredibly infectious ska-turned-tourism-board-advertisement ‘Foreign Affairs’.
Defiant yet upbeat, this sproggy, pronky hydra* finds itself in the unique position of making music that both demands to be listened to, and actually is worth listening to. With each song The Display Team have created a self-contained, manically fun little universe and as soon as the record finished, I found myself wanting to listen all over again. Shifts has certainly been worth the long wait, and hopefully it’s not another seven years time before there’s more.
* As of the album’s final track ‘Big Wide Blue’, the Megazord/Voltron/personal-robot-preference fell into the ocean and morphed into a Greek mythological beast.