With their 2012 debut EP Black List, Machinist! kicked a few doors off the hinges, said their piece to whoever was on the other side and got the fuck out in under six minutes. It was a distorted reminder to cynics and snobs alike that DIY punk and hardcore was alive — that guys under the age of 55 ‘got’ punk and could write 60 second songs full of pulverising riffs and stupid-fast blast beats that also meant something. Whether it was Jeff Hill’s opening disdainful cries of “Failure failure / that’s what they say to me” or his uncompromising closing request to “Put your fucking hands down / Get the fuck away from me / Let your hollow words drown / Don’t pray at me”, Black List resonated through brute force and a strong will. Birthright is Machinist! turning their fiery gaze towards slightly less ambiguous victims.
If that all sounds like nothing more than mindless aggression and knackered kick drums, it’s not — Hill’s moral compass is the center of everything that Machinist! does. His constant and open contempt for bigotry, oppression, homophobia and the like is the blood that runs through the band’s veins, yielded like an axe and not in the least bit blunted. “Another bigot in a black robe / scum of the earth / lower than low / dehumanizing denial of life / petty power trip refusal of rights” he blasts out on title-track opener, a presumed attack on corrupted justice, being born into shit and ultimately the damage done. ‘They’ exercises even more brevity; a 24 second barrage of riffs and noise as ‘they want you to believe / they want you on your knees’ is repetitiously chanted with ferocious energy. It’s the type of track that’ll bridge the generation gap at basement shows — the punk equivalent of a pitchfork protest that urges you to think for yourself and believe what you can actually see.
That idea is explored further on closer ‘Success Build on Self Hate’, a track I’d describe as ‘explosive’ if it weren’t for the fact that it all is, which seems to dismiss religion as a roadblock for real social progress (”so eat your words and pray in your closet’ ) — a topic Hill & co interestingly first explored on Black List closer ‘Prayed Upon’. This ‘leave me alone’ mantra is ever-present in the band’s output (all 15 minutes of it), but it’s never sanctimonious or stylised for mass consumption. It’s probably incredibly fun to play live though — all part of the paradox of playing fast-paced punk music whilst lopping off the heads of philistines and dogmatists in your lyrics.
In the end, it’s one line in particular that dovetails Birthright in the most beautifully ungracious way imaginable: “a million problems / we got no one to fucking solve them”, delivered with hapless distress over an amp-busting riff. That’s Machinist!, right there.
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