Downtown Boys: “Cost of Living” Album Review

Written By: Mike O’ Cull

Website: Twitter: @MikeOCull

Originality: (5 / 5)
Vocals/Flow: (5 / 5)
Lyrics: (5 / 5)
Production: (5 / 5)
Average: (5 / 5)

Back when music reviews were still written on pull-start typewriters, The Clash were called “the only band that matters.” In 2017, that accolade has to be applied to Downtown Boys. The wildly diverse group from Providence, RI combines aggressive Progressive politics (in two languages) with guitar and sax-fueled punk rock that packs enough power to burn an entire corrupt government to the ground. The band’s debut on Sub Pop, Cost of Living, is a blast of righteous rage that still manages to rock the house and start the party. This is the smart, hard-hitting music that the world needs this year.

Cost of Living is a crucial step forward for the band and should bring it to the attention of a much wider listening audience than its first two records did. It’s the kind of record that punches you square in the face in an amazing way. Bilingual singer Victoria Ruiz is a Category 5 hurricane of energy, anger, and ideas, her every utterance dripping with the threat of immediate action. “How much is enough/and who makes that call?” is her first line on the first track, “A Wall,” and it sets the tone for the rest of this set. The whole record channels and deals with the anger of the oppressed working, barely surviving poor of our world with a tone and subtext that can’t be read as anything but a call to action.

The best thing about Cost of Living is that it delivers its important messages while still remaining fun to listen to. Like, what’s the point of a revolution if no one dances, right? Tracks like “I’m Enough (I Want More)” and “It Can’t Wait” explode with the furious energy of a loud band in a small room and are experiences that only the dead could stay still through. This is where the comparison to The Clash is most appropriate. It’s not hard to make an angry record but anger by itself doesn’t guarantee a good listen. 

Downtown Boys sling music with both a point and a passion and that’s what makes this great rock and roll. The band confronts that which needs confronting but never forgets to play music. This record is going to piss off a lot of people and inspire a whole lot more. What more proof of rock and roll greatness could be required?