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Special Interest: The Passion Of

Special Interest plays with a ferocity that makes it all the more bitterly disappointing that the band can’t perform live for the foreseeable future. Granted, this is true of a lot of fast, aggressive music, but your average roughneck hardcore band usually sounds a bit flat once you remove mosh pits and dim lighting from the equation. Special Interest are not your average roughneck hardcore band. Even so, that ferocity was something that was missing on their 2018 debut, Spiraling. For all of its merits, the album lacked the vigor one hoped for as it leaned closer to the post-punk side of Special Interest’s sound. The Passion Of does not lack in aggression. This is a kick in the ass in the form of an album, and it’s a piece of music perfectly suited for the time in which it was created.

Spiraling was plenty dissonant and confrontational, but The Passion Of turns these aspects of Special Interest up to 11. Rather than beginning with something as anthemic as “Young, Gifted, Black, in Leather” as on the previous album, The Passion Of opens with a deadening electronic beat, slow yet inevitable as it reverberates and speeds up. From there, we’re treated to the third entry in Special Interest’s “Disco” trilogy, which announces itself with a stuttering electronic beat and distorted screaming over sharp guitar stabs. The rest of the album is no less confrontational. Whether they play glitchy punk at breakneck speed or slow down for more industrial-inspired compositions, Special Interest never get out of your face.

Any band can be confrontational. Lots of bands are confrontational, in fact. What makes Special Interest, well, special is that they’re confrontational with a purpose. Singer Alli Logout veers between campy theatricality and an unrestrained anger directed sharply at the sort of things that make life miserable for marginalized people. “All Tomorrow’s Carry” portrays the horror of city life in the 21st century, describing the effects that rapid gentrification has on the typically Black and brown communities that get displaced by greedy real estate speculators and the governments that enable them. Closer “With Love” places Blackness at the forefront, recounting the existential threat of being Black in America, of a legacy of being persecuted and brutalized that has changed little over time.

Yet it would be short-changing The Passion Of to describe it purely as polemic. Amidst the politically-charged fury is a pursuit of hedonistic pleasures. “A Depravity Such as This…” is the closest the band gets to a pure techno jam, its pulsating beat growing more urgent as Logout periodically exhorts, “I ache for you.” Then, there’s “Street Pulse Beat,” easily the album’s best song, which encapsulates the desperation of lust, love and all the weird feelings that they bring out.

Special Interest aren’t simply agitators, though agitation is very much a part of what they aim to do. Their goals are more ambitious than just shocking people; on this record, they’re attempting to encapsulate the fear and vitriol that comes with living as a marginalized person in society, when confronting one’s oppressors and seeking any and all escape from the boot perpetually on one’s neck are urgent pursuits. The initial jolt of listening to an album like The Passion Of may be off-putting for some, but putting in the effort to sit with its ideas and simmer with the sounds is more than worth it.

Special Interest plays with a ferocity that makes it all the more bitterly disappointing that the band can’t perform live for the foreseeable future.
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Righteous Noise

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