Credit: Ryan Scott Graham
by Andrew Bosma Music Obscure Object

Drug Church — Hygiene

April 13, 2022

With Hygiene, Drug Church has crafted a snappy, sub-30 minute listen that never offends but which also fails to transcend the influences it absorbs.

As hardcore continues its march (back) to the mainstream, Drug Church rips into the year with Hygiene, a follow-up to 2021 EP Tawny. With this latest, the band does much of what we’ve come to expect Drug Church to do, delivering massive guitar hooks and brutish punk vocals.  Such elements have certainly been a mainstay of both the genre and the band for as long as both have existed, but this latest album begs the question of whether something of a shake-up should be in order.

By genre nature, the lyrics on Hygiene are patently cynical, speaking harshly of the world’s present harsh realities. This tenor extends even to Drug’s Church’s existence as a band, suggesting it may well have been an accident, and that they’re just trying to make it in a sea of other musicians — it’s a brutal but material view of the industry as a whole. With algorithms and streaming services that pay out fractions of a penny, listeners should be shocked that musicians are able to make enough money to live off of their craft. This certainly isn’t a new sentiment — the world of touring exists for a reason — but Drug Church makes this reality a particular target of theirs across many of the tracks here. The sonic expressions on Hygiene likewise trade in long-familiar territory. The band borrows a laundry list of influences, whether it be the hardcore update on grunge-adjacent vocals or the hyper-rhythmic speed drumming of punk rock. And while they prove to be excellent mimics of these genre flourishes, the sum of such liberal cribbing becomes a little stale given the narrow sourcing of their influences — look at what Turnstile’s been doing over the past couple years for a playbook in how to do this right. That’s not to say Drug Church isn’t spicing things up here and there, but the overall impression is of the same trick being repeated over and over, and while what they’re borrowing isn’t ever a problem in itself, it’s the emphasis the group places on borrowing as a foundational concept that leaves a little ingenuity to be desired.

Still, we’re all shaped by late capitalism in one way or another, and bands like Drug Church are just trying to survive in a world built to ensure their financial failure. In many ways, then, their success in this arena is, as they say, a stroke of luck. The band’s artistic successes are more impeachable, but despite failing to transform sonic touchstones into anything distinctly their own, Hygiene is a snappy, sub-30 minute listen that never offends nor overstays its welcome. The group’s raw talent is palpable, and if they have as yet failed to elevate their sound to anything memorable, they remain a lightly engaging act with the distinct potential for more.

Published as part of Album Roundup — March 2022 | Part 1.