“Try to kill me / motherfucker!”
That my friends, is how you kick a record into gear; without a doubt Drowningman laid down a gauntlet of sorts with How They Light Cigarettes In Prison, as other bands of the era struggled to remain relevant, this Vermont (what band comes from Vermont, seriously) band refine their approach and add some sickeningly sweet melodic flourishes to their ear splitting brand of noise-y hardcore to create their own vision of the sound (if you will) while at the same time also staking a claim to having some of the craziest song titles around the parts (at the time in the “scene”, this seemed like a contest amongst some bands).
This four song EP is the first record that Drowningman produced for the legendary Revelation Records and felt like a pipe bomb being dropped on the label that was seemingly drifting from it’s initial intent in a way, and the band packed more in these four soundtracks of intense verbal abuse than most bands can come up with in their entire existence; but by mixing in some sweet melodies, these guys made the discordant parts more discordant and the screamed vocals even more biting. Seriously, go listen to the opening of “Black-tie Knife Fight”, which has the aforementioned opening couplet, and try to tell me that the melodic hook does not just make the heavy and discordant parts all the more effective, particularly that vicious bridge where the infamous Simon Brody (the vocalist and main consistent member of Drowningman throughout the band’s existence who was known at the time as one of the most sarcastic sons of bitches on the planet) is screaming his head off about the “gates of hell” while the rest of the band just sounds so punishing and discordant; this song in it of itself beautifully illustrates the ability of the band to mix the sweet with the sour so well and shows a group who really grasped the songwriting concepts (while having the musical chops to do so) necessary to make a great batch of songs. Besides having one of the more nutty song titles on the EP, “A Quick Prayer To The Patron Saint Of Dirty Rest Area Bathrooms And Clean Getaways”, showcases the more melodic side of the band without losing a whit of the bite or vigor or heaviness; and the title track ratchets up the noisy and discordant aspects of the band to a whole other level to really tie off the record well.
Not a single bad track exists on How They Light Cigarettes In Prison, and this EP should have put Drowningman into a much bigger echelon within punk and hardcore (and for that matter their place in the musical history of the underground music community, and while it did whet people’s appetites for the full length that followed the EP, it did not help them really blow up in terms of popularity); looking back, How They Light Cigarettes In Prison should have been better received because it is a great piece of music and stands up well in the passage of time.
8.5 / 10
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