You could reasonably describe 2020 with a lot of terms: challenging, difficult, nightmarish, dystopian, a trash fire. These are words that immediately come to mind when replaying any of the myriad horrors that have come calling over the last several months.
In a year that has never seemed to lack in things to throw at life and punch us in the face with, musicians at every level from DIY bands to major artists have had a cog thrown in the works and all have had to slam the brakes on touring and haven’t been able to perform much outside of livestreams and isolated outdoor events. This has been incredibly hard for so many of us—musicians, venue staff, road crews, and fans. There is no nice way to sugarcoat things or say how much it has struck a blow at the very heart of live music and what it means to be a creator during these times.
But as always, we as artists still find a way to survive, and while maybe not outright thrive, find meaningful ways to get our art into the world. When times get hardest, music and art come to our salvation, and sometimes, when the days seem the absolute darkest, you need something with an extra sharp edge and a very healthy dose of sarcastic anger for good measure.
Enter The Explainers, a political punk band from Wilmington, NC that channel the fury and cheeky bite of the Dead Kennedys for 2020 in all its g(l)ory. Just in time for election day, they dropped October Surprise, a lo-fi, old school, punk-inspired manifesto that may sound like it would have been right at home in the early 80s SoCal scene, but is absolutely of the moment and directly addresses issues like COVID-19, the persistent plague of racism, and the outrageous police brutality that has held so many in a grip of terror for years—all things that have bubbled over to a head in 2020 like never before.
Taking a scornful aim at the right-wing Trump regime, “Karens,” Qanon, and more, singer Sean Calamity delivers irreverent and biting indictments complete with a Jello Biafra-esque lilt. He makes absolutely no bones about it, often putting himself in the first person as the boogie man wreaking havoc on the unsuspecting masses.
The kit is helmed by speedy basher Sarah Suckadee Slanders, who locks the beats in and leads the charge, creating the foundation for the buzzsaw attack of the guitars and wicked sass of the vocals.
This album definitely isn’t for the faint of heart, but it is for sure the DIY punk gem you need in 2020, complete with a raised middle finger and a scream to match.