The Revelevens - Welcome to Baltimore
Record Label: Crotchshot
Release Date: June 1, 2010
I’ve never been to Baltimore. The closest I’ve come were some kids I met at youth arts camp, who wrote pretentious poetry and earnestly debated which was the best lesbian club in Baltimore (they were sixteen, mind you). Other than those strange folk, my knowledge is spare. Baltimore is Orioles turf. John Waters territory. Given such diverse elements, it only makes sense that Baltimore-based the Revelevens’ second full-length album Welcome to Baltimore is just as odd, just as insecure, and just as fun.
It’s savvy, smart punk rock—social observations (consumerism! gender roles! prostitution!) filtered through a satiric, ghoul-populated lens. The production is crisp and clean, the vocals clear and up-front, often harmonized for extra effectiveness, with occasional flashy guitar solos that aspire to fill stadiums, all of which result in a surprisingly pleasant listen. “Pleasant” in many cases being anathema to a certain kind of punk rocker, but an aspect that I respect and admire. It’s loud and fast, as it should be, but not abrasive. Vocalist Carrie Donovan has an impressive range, and her harsh, scratchy voice against the mix gives the music a very distinctive edge.
It’s such contrasts that make Welcome to Baltimore overall so enjoyable. The dynamics of a traditional song like “Baltimore Fire,” here reinterpreted in punk rock form, give the song an almost apocalyptic vibe, which suits the album just fine. There are enough songs about killing zombies and enough horror-related imagery to merit the zombies on the album cover, enough to wring from it the horror punk aesthetic, although the lyrics on this album occupy various obscure realms of their own—those of kitchen appliances and institutional idiocy, for example—albeit with frequent dips into camp and pulpiness. The Revelevens are more concerned with offering the listener their humorous, cynical view of American life than subscribing to horror punk conventions.
And so it’s a fairly poppy jaunt through a slew of nicely arranged punk rock, the short songs (there are fifteen) sort of shuffling by one after the other, and I, the listener, am likewise sidling nondescriptly alongside them, until a couplet like this comes and smacks me right in the face, in the porn-themed “World Whore III” (the Revelevens are more than capable punsters): “She could die of an embolism/She could choke on a pint of jism.” Nice. Yet even on an album as lyrically scatterbrained as Welcome to Baltimore, the song feels a little incongruous. Not to mention that sections of the melody seem lifted from “Punk Rock Show,” the severely less clever opening song. (Similarly, “Snowmobile” sounds like it could break into “Hot Commodity”; apologists might call these “melodic motifs.”) “Cover Bands” also feels like something of a misfire, a vacuous, sort of band-identity song that posits that the only good cover band is one that plays Elvis, the Misfits, and Janis. (So: psychobilly, then.)
But all in all, Welcome to Baltimore is an adept and idiosyncratic punk rock album, covering terrain both familiar and unsung, a poppy evening stroll amongst inept cops and politicians, vampires and zombies. No danger here.