Pure Disgust, “White Silence” (2016)
It’s easy to see why, as Washington, D.C. is once again flush with hardcore bands garnering attention outside the city, it’s been positioned as a new beginning. After all, D.C’s most iconic hardcore label was run by the person behind some of the most influential bands, and even in 2017 Dischord Records and Ian MacKaye loom large over the city’s punk and hardcore scenes. That’s exactly why the new New Wave Of D.C. Hardcore—styled as NWODCHC for (kind of) short—has not necessarily reacted against D.C.’s established sounds as much as its bands have found new channels for that energy and anger.
While I was familiar with Pure Disgust off of its demo and 7-inches, I somehow missed its self-titled LP that hit last August. It wasn’t until the tail end of December that I finally saw a copy in a store, picked it up, and rushed home to hear it. As soon as the squealing feedback gave way to the band’s propulsive riffing, I was sold, but also a little bummed that it somehow slipped by me. By then, year-end lists had been finalized, and this late discovery made me feel like a fool for not being more diligent when Pure Disgust was first released.
It’s hard to pick a single song that sums up Pure Disgust’s charm, but the one that’s stuck with me most is “White Silence,” the album’s riff-forward closing track. Pure Disgust has always done a great job of mixing classic Oi!, fastcore, and solos befitting of a classic rock LP, making them all feel at home under one roof. “White Silence” is a near-perfect example of the band’s ability to go in three different directions without ever feeling unfocused. Guitars bounce power chords off one another while the drums barely leave an inch of sonic space, but it’s the voice atop all this that unifies it all.
Rob Watson’s burly vocals are unmistakable, sounding as if each word was delivered with his full lung capacity. His lyrics are just as powerful, as Watson sets his sights on the insidious ways racism is enacted by those who otherwise claim to know better. “You stay silent because talking about it would be tiresome,” he screams before entering one of the song’s two sing-along parts. As “White Silence” enters its melodic coda, Watson blares the song’s thesis, “The new racism is the denial racism.”
Since I first heard Pure Disgust—which was taken as a double shot with Gouge Away’s excellent debut, Dies—it’s reminded me of everything I love about hardcore, and specifically D.C. hardcore, since I was a kid: It’s blisteringly angry, immediate, and has something of import to say. These aren’t mindless, two-part songs full of toothless sloganeering. They offer insight into Watson’s experience while challenging white listeners—of which there are many in the hardcore scene—to listen up, learn something, and actually make a change instead of just screaming about it.