Published Oct 29, 2020I try to avoid reading the press materials for an album until I've given it a few listens, because it can too often be easy to just rehash it for the review, sprinkling in a few observations here and there to pad it out. But even without the literature on Dead Broke, the scorching new album from Halifax punks Like a Motorcycle, the album's subtext is obvious: they got burned, badly, by a record deal gone wrong. And they're fucking pissed about it. With the music industry basically on life assistance and touring a non-viable option for the foreseeable future, Like a Motorcycle have picked the perfect time to drop a furious take-down of a system that profits off of musicians without so much as giving them the basic support they need.
It sets the stage for a high-octane album that doesn't let up for a second over its 13 tracks and 30-minute runtime. With murky basslines and spiny bursts of guitars, Like a Motorcycle take on the world, from the predatory practices that squeeze out every last drop of humanity from bright-eyed youngsters to the celebrity-industrial complex at large. The lyricism is sharp and to-the-point, and the music sounds like Cloud Nothings performing to arena-sized crowds, ready to rouse the audience into setting fire to basically everything.
Built around a series of hook-laden singles like "Satan Does the Numbers," "Swept Out" and "Wide Awake," the record makes their anti-capitalist missives as clean and easy to digest as possible. There are plenty of rock riffs and shoutable lyrics (personal favourites are "They've been telling me 'I'm my own enemy,' so I chewed up every hand that was feeding me" and "If you don't work then you won't eat either") to chew on as the messages lodge themselves into listeners' brains. But Dead Broke, with its cheap dinner imagery and shouted yelps against injustice, is at its core a punk album — "Work," a minute-long blast with a single lyric repeated ad nauseam ("If I die tonight, then I won't have to work tomorrow if I don't wake up") has just as much pathos as the record's more fleshed-out, pop-structured songs.
For all of Dead Broke's venomous, moody explorations, there's a sense of triumph and accomplishment in overcoming a seemingly never-ending series of obstacles and conflicts with ideals intact. On closing track "Wide Awake," Like a Motorcycle send the record off with one last middle finger at the world that tried to keep them down — along with one last reminder of the unsustainability of it all: "I'm unable to breathe, what a relief I made this far / I'm unable to breathe, hard to believe I made it."
Like a Motorcycle don't deal in subtlety: Dead Broke is in-your-face and obvious with its insults, and is all the better for it. By not aiming for some sort of vague universality, Like a Motorcycle infuse each of Dead Broke's songs with a searing specificity that makes it a refreshing jolt of building-burning punk rock, brimming with fury and life. (Known Accomplice)