The Drug Church on Hygiene is so noticeably different from where the same band about half a decade ago. Back then, they were the sort of post-hardcore band liable to be slotted into the same conversations as Touché Amoré or La Dispute, only pricklier and more knotted in a way that was regularly to their detriment. The changes made on 2018’s Cheer served to rectify that somewhat, but Hygiene is a much different animal in terms of where its creative nexus lies. It’s actually rather funny to look back on Cheer’s self-proclamation of a ‘sellout album’ and then turn back to this, because that’s a label that’s far more applicable to Hygiene. And yet, that’s not meant as slight in any way; if anything, this is Drug Church’s leanest, punchiest and most unashamedly enjoyable album to date, by a wide margin. On second thought, ‘sellout’ has too many pejorative connotations for what this album ultimately is, and how it’s ultimately more of a repurposing of Drug Church’s style than a reinvention. That’s evident from the word ‘go’ on Fun’s Over, in a giant, stone-hewn riff that brings forth a poppiness hitherto unexplored to this extent. There are moments across Hygiene thatare the closest thing to a seamless fusion of hardcore and pop-punk since early PUP, like how Plucked and Million Miles Of Fun still feel beholden to the seismic tension beneath an emo framework this bright and direct. The same goes for the kaleidoscopic swirl of Detective Lieutenant and Premium Offer, and the claws-out thunder-punk of World Impact; the craftsmanship in how Drug Church fit everything together is frankly staggering, given that none of their threads or deviations ever feel out of place or in service to anything other than a monumentally compact whole.
It’s the product of the DIY mindset coursing through Hygiene, and indeed, Drug Church’s entire musical ethos. They’re operating entirely on their own terms, and what might feel like a scaling back of ideas couldn’t be less so. Patrick Kindlon is still at the helm, after all, with the sardonic observations of both his own art and that in the wider space that are free from any sort of compromise. It’s emblematic of the shagginess and unkempt posture that continues to define Drug Church, as bashed-out punk collides with its bellowing mouthpiece to sound as urgent as humanly possible. A song like Piss & Quiet is all but ready to burst out into a full-on hardcore rager, but restraint and canniness does prevail, much to Drug Church’s credit. It’s borderline perfect in terms of where their median lies, between a fat-free compositional style and a manner of playing that’s not shirking a legitimate heaviness in the guitars and bass. The optimal word is ‘tuneful’; it’s too wild to be outright polished, while resting on ‘melodic’ doesn’t quite feel genuine to where Drug Church are taking this particular approach. Instead, it’s indicative of a hardcore album, pressurised to the fullest extent to where the diamond it yields really does verge on something speacial. Factor in a runtime that runs gleefully shy of half-an-hour and ideal in doing so, and Hygiene is about as concentrated and potent as shots in the arm come, especially as the culmination of a good few years of aiming for that goal. Quite simply, it’s the best of Drug Church we’ve got to date, and it’s not even close.
For fans of: PUP, Turnstile, Fiddlehead
‘Hygiene’ by Drug Church is released on 11th March on Pure Noise Records.
Words by Luke Nuttall