30 years is a long fucking time. Those of us fortunate enough to break into our 30s know the wisdom and fragility that comes with clicking into that next decade of life. Things hurt more, from hangovers to inexplicable body aches. That said, we are also wiser, having learned from many of the mistakes we made in our early days, and we begin to understand what our parents meant when they described those days when they were “young and stupid.”
For bands, 30 years is like two lifetimes. That is how long Madball has graced this planet. Formed in 1988 out of the violence and grime of New York City, Madball came onto the scene in the shadow of literal older brothers Agnostic Front, but swiftly laid their own exclusive foothold as a permanent NYHC fixture. Writers are typically expected to expand acronyms prior to using them, but if you don’t know that one and you’re reading a review about a Madball record, I can’t help you.
For The Cause, produced by famed Rancid frontman Tim Armstrong, is Madball’s ninth studio record, and it has the muted polish of experience to prove it. Opening track ‘Smile Now, Pay Later’, contrary to cliché, does not, “come out swinging.” That’s not how hardcore works. It’s about the story, the grit and, most importantly, the build. When the beat drops, however, ‘Smile Now, Pay Later’ exhibits the quintessential NYHC groove only effectively manifested on the aggression-fertile soil of Lower Manhattan.
The second track, ‘Rev Up’ showcases Madball’s experience, maintaining the framework listeners expect from the band laced with the hooks and singalongs worthy of several track repeats. Vocalist Freddy Cricien experiments with some singing-ish vocals, but it works extremely well. Similarly, track three, ‘Freight Train’ will most certainly have you humming the chorus in your most “don’t fuck with me” moments in life. The record continues on a modest, yet detailed amalgamation of thrashy fast verses as well as trademarked breakdown choruses, peppered with guest appearances from the famed Ice-T and punk rock’s golden son, Tim Armstrong.
The last quarter of the record reveals Cricien’s Cuban roots in ‘Es Tu Vida’, maintaining Cricien’s legacy of reaching out to the Latino community through his lyrics, serving to build a significant following in Latin American countries. The record progresses to the heartbreaking track ‘For You’ about a father having to raise his son after the loss of the child’s mother.
For The Cause concludes with the title track, an anthem of hope and the confidence of forging one’s own path, proclaiming, “I say the sky is the limit, you can't see past the overcast, above the darkness is where I'm headed, where hope is vast.”
In financial publications, writers are required to inform readers if they own the particular stocks they wrote about in an attempt to illuminate any potential bias. In this piece, I will do the same. When I heard that Madball was releasing a new record, I already knew that I would give it a near perfect rating. After digesting it for a few months, my recommendation remains the same. For The Cause is an essential chapter of New York Hardcore and is highly unlikely to disappoint even a pedestrian listener of the genre.
8.0 / 10
Posted April 20, 2014, 4:35 p.m.
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