Double Dagger: Ragged Rubble
Double Dagger has always provided dark, frenetic, politically charged punk rock for people who enjoy using their brains. DD's sophomore effort, Ragged Rubble, is crunchy sonic asphalt that builds admirably on the band's 2003 self-titled full-length debut. Whereas before frenetic frontman Nolen Strals howled and preened about CMYK, boring parties, and other hazards of being half of Baltimore's premier graphic-design firm/punk-rock outfit, now he's looking outward. Ragged Rubble is pumped full of righteous indignation about the war in Iraq, consumer culture, and Baltimore City's recent predilection for building luxury condos while entire sections of the city's low-income housing collapse to the ground.
The addition of drummer Dennis Bowen has given the group an even more martial hardcore sound, and leadoff track "The Psychic" is a throbbing, thorny slab of vitriol built around a droning, elastic low end from Bruce Willen, who wrings melodies that a bass guitar has no business making. On "Empty Dictionary"--a darkly catchy diatribe against consumer buzzwords--Strals chants, "Sexy/ Natural/ Extreme/ I don't know what you mean," in a snarky spoken-word delivery before declaring that "all your language is dead." And "Luxury Condos for the Poor" juxtaposes quiet, almost pretty passages with distorted bass while Strals attacks "Waterfront grave sites 30 stories high." "You say you want them to `Believe' in this/ Then give them a place where they can live," he spits, before finally muttering a resigned, "If you've lived here your whole life, it's time to get out."
"Form + Function" rails against unoriginality and predictability, coming on like a lecture from your favorite college professor: "There's something called context/ Context context context/ And without it, you're just making a fucking mess." Ragged Rubble's only misstep is "Stripes," a well-written diatribe against Dubya that, thanks to the incongruous inclusion of sampled crowd sounds from the 2006 State of the Union address, feels fractured and diluted. Still, unlike Baltimore's other so-called "punk" bands--priding themselves on emulating a specific look rather than a hunger for social change--Double Dagger's skill is undeniable and its fury real. Form plus function, indeed.