Rare is the tingling sensation that comes with hearing a band on the verge of changing things. Percolating with minimalistic, clutter-free hardcore that hearkens back to the early days of Dischord, Drain’s Living Proof could be that next band. The youngish hardcore group still sounds pretty much like it did when they released their first EP in 2016. The band’s MO is still pretty much the same, too: Introduce hungry, frustrated kids to the aggressive world of hardcore. With Living Proof, Drain wear all that experience on their collective sleeve—and, for the first time, sound confident with their songcraft.
Drain hail from Santa Cruz, home of legendary punk outfits like Good Riddance and Swingin’ Utters, not to mention the more obscure but even more influential BL’AST!. Santa Cruz is also home to Scowl, arguably the hottest hardcore band in the country right now. And that band’s recent liftoff into the stratosphere could be part of the reason why Drain are drawing code-red levels of attention they otherwise might not have. It’s a tricky time to be a hardcore band, after all. While virtually every music genre is cross-pollinating with one or more others, it’s increasingly rare to come across a group whose genre description doesn’t contain at least one hyphen. Hardcore, which is almost completely sustained by purist fans, is one of those genres. And Drain is one of those bands: a textbook example of what a craft-minded hardcore squad sounds like.
For punk-rock fans who don’t dig Turnstile’s penchant for melody, Knocked Loose’s knack for beatdowns, or Title Fight’s poppy tendencies, Drain could be just what they need. A hardcore band with no frills and only minimum crossing over, they resurrect the spirit of Black Flag, Minor Threat, and Minutemen. Living Proof only deviates from straight-up straight-edge on two occasions: “Intermission,” which incorporates elements of hip-hop with the help of $uicideboy$ collaborator Shakewell, and “Good Good Things,” a Descendents cover that revolves around singing instead of screaming. It’s a strong record from top to bottom, and that’s where the title track—an experimental masterpiece—lives.
Drain write challenging hardcore songs with virtually no slop. But with that fairly simple-minded approach, they also run the risk of repeating what other hardcore bands have done before. If Drain is seeking credit for originality, they can’t make a case for it with either their first LP, California Cursed, or its new follow-up. Likewise, vocalist Sammy Ciaramitaro has a lot of space to improve upon his lyrics, such as on “Imposter”: “I don’t know who you are / Can’t recognize you anymore / Sick of watching everyone trying to be everything but theirselves,” go the lyrics. It’s hardly Shakespeare. But even with those two critiques, Drain’s execution and expertise on Living Proof proudly carries on the hardcore tradition.