Back in the early and mid-2000s, there was a subset of seminal hardcore bands that brought a particular brand of bouncy, youth crew-forward hardcore that was unpretentious but self-aware. I’m thinking specifically of the short-lived groups that were scrappy and unsharpened, that often only played a handful of shows before disbanding and fading into scene lore. The latest offering from Chicago’s Buggin brought me right back to the early Lockin Out days, driving me to bust out a perfect example of this niche, Crunch Time’s 2005 seven-inch The Realness. It seems we have a resurgence of this style on our hands, or I’m just too far removed and it never went away.
Buggin builds on those mid-2000s foundations and expands on the template, recalling the Beastie Boys touch of RZL DZL’s “Ignorance Is Bliss,” but more on that later. Their Demo 2019 is beautifully imperfect as so much of the best hardcore is -- raw energy and enthusiasm filled with ideas that evolve as they’re being recorded, and just enough disregard for precision to maintain the NYHC spirit. Less than a year later, they dropped the Buggin Out EP, featuring production that’s dramatically sharper, showcasing that they’ve taken the time to hone their execution and songwriting. This is where the mid-2000s influence really starts to shine; “My Rules” sounds eerily like Guns Up, and “Dead to Me” radiates early Down To Nothing.
After shortening their name to simply Buggin, the group kicked off the new year releasing their single Brainfreeze on long-standing Baltimore label Flatspot Records, complete with some outstanding graffiti style artwork. The title track bursts through with a bouncy riff and a mosh-worthy groove, backed by a powerful drum mix that emphasizes the echo on the snare. Bryanna’s vocals are absolutely on point, cutting through with a powerful urgency that’s fitting for Buggin’s evolution, even if they like to keep the content lighthearted. I suppose there’s an argument that this level of polish undermines the hardcore mindset, that it should only be played sloppy and cheap, but in this case I think it just shows more dedication to their craft.
The single also includes a cover of Beastie Boys’ “Gratitude” off of 1992’s Check Your Head, which is flawlessly fun and may be even better than the A-side. The thick and fuzzy bass tone that they chose is a highlight on its own. There’s not much more to say for a two-song release except that Buggin needs to keep up the momentum, and write a full-length before they fall into the trap of breaking up too soon. Let’s keep the fun going for at least a little longer.
9.0 / 10
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