Ceremony - Rohnert Park (punk)
Posted May 3, 2011, by Conor Crockford.
Rohnert Park is one of the best hardcore punk albums of the new decade, a testament to punk's relevance in the American Apocalypse and to classic hardcore's endurance as a form of pop in it's own right. It screams with unhinged rage, then simmers to an uneasy gut feeling in your chest that erupts over and over again. Ceremony has created an album that is a "throwback" and an advancement in it's own right in their career. The angry white boys of the next few years will skate to Rohnert Park, a cycle of anger and resentment that repeats itself over and over with each disappointment and wasted moment.
The opening track "Into the Wayside part 1" (interestingly, all the songs have switched titles) starts with skittering, prickly Morricone guitar, like the Against Me track "Miami". Then the drums kick in, a primal caveman beat, as the song starts to rev up into a hardcore piece of rage. Ross Farrar screams, to a two chord riff, "Sick of terrorism/Sick of black flag/sick of cro mags/SICK I'M SICK I'M SICK I'M SICK!" Like the album itself, this could have been sung in 1982, but it just Ducking works in an era of Tea Party conservatives, union-busting, terrorism, and economic meltdown. Everyone's sick. Everyone's tired. And everyone is pissed off.
The rest of the album features this kind of hardcore: fast, occasionally similar to the powerviolence of Ceremony's recent albums ("Don't Touch Me"), but deeply enraged and in turmoil. But it's played with great power and a terrible, voyeuristic sincerity. Farrar howls, "Every day I'm suffering from terminal addiction/every day addicted, downward circling/" on "Terminal Addiction" in a voice that means every note.
Yet it's not a simple hardcore punk album; songs become surprisingly strange, changing constantly. "Open Head" starts with a man monologuing about his inability to save his neighbor from dying as a child, acoustic guitar and bass creating an unsettling score for this strange story. The album slows down effectively often, and the song "Nigh to Life" is almost an Elliott Smith song, but, like the rest of the album, curdled into something disturbing. Rohnert Park robs the listener of comfort and turns him to dread instead.
This is, honestly, a great album. Ceremony is one of the best bands of the Bay Area, one that beats the Fresh & Only's for rock attack any day of the week. And they've created a great punk album, deeply disturbing, occasionally funny, but as timely as any. Hardcore kids will know this album intimately by the end of the 2000s. It thwarts nostalgia while meeting the past with open arms. And it manages to crawl under your skin while doing so.