Fair warning: be careful when listening to Back to the Cruel World in public, as the inevitable head banging is sure to attract attention.
It’s befitting that Strange Attractor’s lead vocalist and frontman Jeff Houle opens the first track with an exasperated scream, setting the tone appropriately for the remainder of the album. Back to the Cruel World is the third full-length LP from the Sudbury-based group, with none of the album’s 14 songs clocking in past the two-minute mark. From start to finish, Strange Attractor sets you up for a relentless joyride, filled with grimy guitar licks, rage-riddled vocals, and enough snare drum rolls to make your head spin. It’s noise rock at its most unpolished and gruesome (and, therefore, at its finest).
The simultaneously menacing and restless sounds of “Escape from DMT” and “Real Dark Place” force you to yell along to their often unintelligible lyrics, while “In Your Eyes” perfectly strips away any notion of fancy guitar work in favour of chord progressions so simple your grandma could learn them—if she wasn’t already preoccupied with telling you to turn that damn racket down.
It would be an injustice not to mention the affectionately nicknamed “Total Shit Trilogy,” composed of “Feel Like Total Shit,” “This is Total Shit,” and “I’m Total Shit.” This trifecta of vulgarity comes together to encapsulate all the feelings of everyone’s rebellious teen years, rich with references to hangovers and fist fights that will bring you back to the night when you totaled your parents’ minivan like it was yesterday.
Back to the Cruel World will likely be written off as screechy punk trash by many, but those willing to give the compilation the chance it deserves may find something great (and more than likely sweaty) in Strange Attractor’s explosive creation.