The political notion of a dog whistle is one that implies a certain viewpoint while not explicitly stating it. This is most commonly seen by the far-right’s attempts at subverting context through plausible deniability via the use of the okay hand gesture as a symbol of white supremacy, the (((three parentheses/echo))) to imply anti-semitism, and most recently the phrase “Subscribe to Pewdiepie,” spoken by a white supremacist terrorist shortly before murdering over 40 people in a New Zealand church. These tactics are meant to confuse those not in the know as well as signal to those around them that they are “down with the cause,” the “cause” ultimately being a white ethnostate. So when Show Me The Body uses it as the title of their third album, it’s more than just a continuation of a canine theme — it’s a reflection of the context in which the band is bathed in.
The group’s politics lean heavily towards the far left, implied by their attitude, themes, and collaborators such as Moor Mother, Dreamcrusher, and Princess Nokia. However, the band does not overtly pigeonhole themselves within a specific ideology, perhaps due to the heavily sectarian politics that occur in leftist spaces, or to continue their inclusivity towards the more liberal-moderate genre tourists that book them. Nevertheless, even a cursory glance at the poetic lyrics that skin-headed frontman Julian Pratt recites throughout his songs reveals a strong disdain for fascism, reform, and neoliberalism as well as references to notions of genocide, racism, the state, and revolution.
Dog Whistle as an album builds off the last 40 years of punk rock’s legacy. The heavy, droning riffs combined with harsh noise and polyrhythmic flair are reminiscent of Fugazi’s success at building mood through more refined musicianship. The digitally distorted synth bass hits and strong hip-hop rhythms heard throughout the album are a wholly 21st-century take on hardcore music, showing a willingness to grow on a formula that is otherwise stagnated by misguided attempts at controlling tradition.
Unlike 2017’s Corpus I, which served as more of a label compilation with the band acting as curators of the New York new punk scene, this album is purely the three-piece, featuring Julian’s improvisatory and affected banjo chops against the almost mathy rhythm section of bassist Harlan Steed and drummer Noah Cohen-Corbett. Songs like “Forks and Knives” as well as “Not For Love” destroy the notion of a downbeat while also being catchy as hell numbers, inserting a delicious little Steve Reich reference in the hook “I’m waiting to come out to show ’em.”
The lyrics on this album are purposely cryptic, implying a deeper, more dreadful take on a lot of issues such as state-sanctioned slavery, anti-capitalism, police as tools of the ruling class, and working-class unity. They’re definitely more understated than on Corpus I, which included overt hate letters against the fascist Proud Boys and clips exposing the realities of America’s for-profit prison system. Julian’s poetry stands on its own through a couple of short interludes on this album. Both of which are harrowing numbers, especially the particularly grim yet poignant “Die For The Earth to Live,” which talks about what is to be done in regards to climate change.
Musically, the band has evolved greatly from their initial, now comparatively calm album Body War into the more matured act they’ve grown into. In addition to unifying a large set of oppressed artists within their city, they’ve caught spots as the token hardcore group on a myriad of lineups in which organizers seem blissfully unaware of the band’s strong anti-capitalist attitude. While detractors on the far left may disregard Show Me The Body due to their willingness to work within these spaces, I would argue that the platform they’ve received and the importance of messages they send supersede any arbitrary notions of political purity that the band is expected to live up to. Nevertheless, their thinly veiled critiques are spot on and imply both a strong class and racial analysis, just as well, the music fucking bangs.