An album titled My Life is Over would be a little more convincing if it weren’t so lively. That’s not a bad thing, I’m just saying. With most of what we formerly considered normalcy having been arrested by a global-cluster-fucking pandemic, a sense of being set adrift from reality would be understandable. The world flipped on a dime in a matter of a few weeks and it would be reasonable to feel as it the work of one’s life had been smashed like a snow globe hurled at a concrete barrier during that transition. I don’t know if this is how Militarie Gun’s frontman and pathfinder Ian Shelton feels, but after listening to the group’s debut EP, even if hopelessness has found a home in him, he’s not letting on in any way that I can see.
Militarie Gun began during a rehearsal session for Shelton’s other band Regional Justice Center. At one point collaborator, Stef Jerkova air-balled an idea that would become the track “Kept Talkin'” and the two of them decided to commit it to tape. As it became more clear that the pandemic was going to have a much more devastating impact than previously reported, Shelton threw himself into the new project, as he has done with some many before. The result is a pathologically honest, and menacingly melodic hardcore record that speaks to the disintegration of our society under the weight of psychic pressure heaped on the moral rot of austerity and dissociation, which characterizes American social and civil life.
The fast and unremitting fury of Regional Justice Center may be what many associate Shelton’s work, but what is often overlooked is the robust emotional core of that band, which lends it the energy and presence that many of the hardcore faithful have come to adore. The undeniable flood of emotions that seethes inside Shelton like the rolling currents of a great ocean serve to keep Militarie Gun afloat, even when it feels like he’s attacking the masts and hull with a hatchet in the act of self-annihilating passion. Beginning with the most surprising track off My Life is Over, “Life in Decline” is a shoegazing, snag of melodic Fugazi bends, its guitar melody rising and falling in pained revolutions as some internal pressure is relieved from its pours, only to immediately replenished. I say unexpected, because the track really feels like Self Defense Family channeling Hum, two bands that I would have never associated with Shelton’s previous sonic shot-puts.
What Shelton and Co. are tossing into the air on My Life is Over is much closer to the exploratory genre implosions that proliferated on the edges of hardcore scenes in the mid to late ’80s. A confluence of events and influences that produced groups like Soul Side and Shutter to Think- bands who could not be rightly be considered hardcore, but whose sound wouldn’t make sense if hardcore were to be total bleached out of the picture. This is best exemplified on the opener and high-water mark, “A New Low for Progressive Society”, which feeds a jangling, fluttering guitar melodies into the treds of a slapping, hardcore beat, pinning it there with the knives and bitter lances of Shelton’s purgatively melodic outcries, making the musical equivalent of a bacon-wrapped date with a rusty nail driven through it. Good luck gumming that one down, partner. The remaining tracks will be no less dissolvable in your mouth, despite their outward appearance of sweetness. “Dislocate Me” dredges the same pools of human psychic-slime and acidic mental grease as Drug Church for its grunge gnawing, pithy post-punk push, and “Kept Talkin'” is an Amphetamine Reptile-esque slither and slice through a constricting, inverted groove.
Even in the midst of an ongoing global crisis, your life isn’t over until it’s over. This means that you still have plenty of time to enjoy this coarsely caramelized nugget of off-kilter melodic hardcore before they stuff you in a coffin filled with the silence of your embalmed flesh and once pulsing heart. Take Shelton’s lead and enjoy your passions while you can.