“I’m a punk rock renegade.”
That’s the opening line of the song, “Kitty Sucker,” on the excellent new album by Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, End of Suffering. As the former lead singer of both Gallows and Pure Love, Carter certainly has a punk pedigree. And honestly, what could be more punk than making a new wave album with deeply introspective lyrics?
Fuzzier than an early Jesus & Mary Chain album, End of Suffering is urgency through the lens of 1985. The music itself, thickened with reverb, sounds cavernous and ominous. Dean Richardson’s straight-razor guitar tone slices the songs into existence, like a chainsaw sculptor creating a throne out of a tree trunk. Synths and pedal effects create a lush, rushing background, the equivalent of watching trees rush by a car window while driving in the late afternoon. But that mixture of metal and velour is necessary to highlight the clarity and quality of Carter’s voice. Through the snarling and brave posturing, that guy can sing. It’s practically theatrical; he conveys emotions and ideas with conviction and accuracy. With End of Suffering, Carter rips his rib cage open to present the listener with his dark, yet hopeful, heart.
Carter’s lyrics are deceptively intimate, diary pages read in front of a crowd. Carter knows how to cut to the core of things with lyrics that are both relatable and devastating. In the slow burn song, “Supervillain,” Carter addresses imposter syndrome. “I feel like a good man,” he sings, “but I’m a fucking heathen.” He’s not afraid to show the listener what he sees in the mirror.
But Carter hasn’t forgotten how to wind up, either. Lead-off single, “Crowbar,” is a giant friction motor of a song, finally unleashing in the triumphant chorus. It’s two and a half minutes of perfection. deserving of the top spot in any summer soundtrack. Songs like “Tyrant Lizard King” and the aforementioned “Kitty Sucker” follow the same lines, sweet nuggets of feedback-redolent rock and roll.
End of Suffering truly excels when Carter’s lyrics become uncomfortably intimate. The standout track, “Anxiety,” quietly details self-doubt and esteem issues. “I should be sweet,” he sings, “but I’m not happy.” Then he rips into a stand-up-and-sway chorus, extolling the removal of the stigma concerning those issues. It’s affecting in unexpected ways. Carter describes himself as someone who identifies and explains those things within his own being. If “Anxiety” doesn’t paint Carter as an ally, it makes him someone who understands the problems and isn’t afraid to point them out. Again, what’s more punk rock than that?
Live with End of Suffering for a while. There is nothing mindless here, no toss-off radio-ready songs designed to get the band on Top of the Pops. It’s a mature collection, confession without whining, rock without pretentiousness. Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes have released a winner, and End of Suffering deserves your full attention.
End of Suffering by Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes will be released May 3 via International Death Cult.