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From The Ground Up, Words Can't Explain


(Round 2 Records, CD)

Burlington's From the Ground Up trade in passionate, socially conscious hardcore. Their tunes are no-frills, featuring rock-solid drumming, muscular guitars and guttural vocals. This formula has worked well for a number of bands, most notably Gorilla Biscuits, who FTGU musically resemble. Their latest, Words Can't Explain, is both visceral and uplifting, a healthy dose of earnest hardcore.

Several players contributed to the album, some as full-time members, others as temporary fill-ins. Notables include the talented punk drummer Bobby Hackney Jr., and bassist Adam Meilleur of dark-pop act The Static Age. Handling axe duties are Alan Blackman and Paul Rushford. Dean Blumberg contributes bass to the first four cuts, although Julian Hackney (who doesn't perform on the CD) currently provides the low end. Vocalist Alex Pond is the de facto leader of this crew, and he tackles the role with confidence and authority.

The disc opens with "Nothing to Go Back To," which is propelled by double-time drums and chugging, rapid-fire guitars. "If we struggle for our dreams to be realized, we must struggle even more for them to be forgotten," Pond barks over the musical maelstrom.

"The Death of Fear" continues the sonic assault, but at a more relaxed tempo. Which isn't to say the song is sluggish; its toothy riffs and rugged rhythms still provide plenty of velocity. "Desperation transforms into strength / We rise to smash and reclaim our life," Pond howls. Here, as elsewhere on the disc, he offers empowering, if somewhat vague, verbiage.

A rising tide of feedback heralds "The Greater Good," which features the kind of fist-pumping sing-along that makes hardcore a perennial favorite among disenfranchised youth needing to belong. "I love my friends . . . I love my friends . . . I love my friends to fucking death!" Pond belts. Chances are the feeling is reciprocal.

"October" is rather romantic, despite its razor-sharp guitars and punishing, half-time breakdown. "I will not shield my eyes / Can't close to the beauty, the beauty of you," the lyrics state. "To celebrate a life, I celebrate you / The catalyst of wonderful." Who says tough guys can't be sensitive?

FTGU are noble keepers of the hardcore flame. Long may they burn.