They say the third time’s a charm, and this is definitely true of Round Eye’s latest album, the relentlessly volatile Culture Shock Treatment. Culture Shock Treatment clocks in at a mere thirty-nine minutes in total running time, but it includes fifteen songs that are almost guaranteed to quake the ground beneath your floorboards this summer – even at moderate volumes. Uncompromisingly fierce and essentially an evolved amalgamation of thoughts previously left unfinished in their last two albums, this latest addition to Round Eye’s discography feels like the punk record that 2020 didn’t even know it needed until now. In an age when rebellion has been relegated to faux-gangster symbolisms in Soundcloud rap, there’s an argument to be made that this LP couldn’t be arriving at a better time.
The riffing is pretty brutish in “Pieces,” “5000 Years,” “Catatonic (I’m Not a Communist)” and “Magaman,” but the strange, often angular harmonies that each of these tracks are filled with are surprisingly catchy just the same. The single “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” is a good example of Round Eye’s creative duality in action, and though it’s made all the more stunning thanks to the meticulous hand of the legendary Mike Watt in the producer’s chair, something tells me the oomph in this band’s sound would still be present in most any setting. They’re breathing vitality into every stitch of audio here and avoiding the temptation to overexploit Watt’s phenomenal – and quite frequently surreal – production hand for all its worth, which was probably the right move for this stage of their career.
“Endless Sleep” and the incredible single/video combo “Smokestack” have the most intriguing potential for live experimentation, and I don’t say that because of their flexible compositional bones exclusively. The video for “Smokestack” definitely gives us a pretty good idea of how crushing this group can be when they’re afforded the proper venue to shine, but in all of the material here, there’s a consistency to even the harshest of noise that could be shaped into almost anything – melodic or not – in a stage show. I’d love to find out for myself sometime in the future, and if Culture Shock Treatment gets the exposure it deserves this July, I’ll probably get my wish sooner than later.
Versatile and thuggishly rebellious in every instance it can be, Round Eye’s third album doesn’t disappoint if you love high caliber punk thrills as much as I do. Whether it be the stomp of “An Opportunity of a Lifetime,” exoticisms of “Uomo Moderno” or the suffocating simplicity of the bluesy “Red Crimes,” there isn’t any filler that would warrant hitting the skip button in this disc – on the contrary, every song here is a required item of consumption, feeding into the overall narrative of the record while staying away from the cheesiness of over-conceptualized progressive rock. Anyone who said postmodern experimentalism was going out of style in 2019 clearly wasn’t prepared for Culture Shock Treatment, and personally, I hope they get a chance to spin this LP above all others.