One of my favorite parts about listening to punk — in all its permutations, combinations, and subgenres — is that it can draw out and amplify any emotion.
I love punk that makes me laugh, punk that makes me nervous, punk that makes me sad, and of course, punk that makes me want to scream “fuck you” to whomever I’ve decided is The Establishment that day. On Kluster Rooms Sessions, the latest split EP from UK punk powerhouses Big Joanie and Charmpit, I get to dart between two extremes. From the pensive rock of Big Joanie’s early recording of “Cut Your Hair” to Charmpit’s scornful shouts on “Bad Attitude,” Kluster Rooms Sessions is just the sonic and emotional adventure I’ve been looking for.
Just like on Big Joanie’s 2018 debut Sistahs, “Cut Your Hair” is like a slowcore dedication to communal support and intimacy that consistently reminds me to view DIY as a shared labor of love. But this early version of “Cut Your Hair” enters even more like a somber procession, swinging between low and high registers slowly but firmly. With the track stripped to its essentials, Stephanie Phillips’ vocals are especially compelling:
You think that I’m not here
Though I’ve been here for years /
Watching you silently
Loving you faithfully
The overtones of love and longing for recognition are super resonant right now, as I’m forced to find new ways to share affection and commitment while physically distanced. In music communities right now, that’s especially hard: we’re all broke and we’re all sad, but I think we’re still committed to what mutual support we all can provide each other.
Then, Charmpit’s “Bad Attitude” glides in and infects me with a newfound energy to stick up for myself and my people unlike any I’ve felt before. The line “FUCK THIS JOB — IT’S YOUR PROB” feels especially strong right now — between my essential worker friends who are tired of being treated like shit by anti-masker customers and my work-from-home friends who are sick of letting corporate surveillance into their houses, I don’t know a soul who is happy with their work situation. At the same time, right now also feels like a time where I especially can’t afford to holler “fuck this job,” so I’ll settle for Charmpit’s take.
“Cut Your Hair” and “Bad Attitude” may feel like an unlikely pair, but if anything, they feel like a brilliant juxtaposition. As distinctive as each track is, they feel like two sides of the same coin.
“I don’t know a soul who is happy with their work situation. At the same time, right now also feels like a time where I especially can’t afford to holler “fuck this job,” so I’ll settle for Charmpit’s take.”
Much like this pandemic that’s forcing me to feel every emotion swirling around me while I’m shuttered inside, Kluster Rooms Sessions lets me bring every intense emotion to the table. Big Joanie and Charmpit bring their own sensibilities that speak to me differently. Whatever it is that brings you to punk, you’ll get something out of Kluster Rooms Sessions, for sure.
Devon (he/him) is a Cleveland-based event organizer. He loves radical theory, loud guitars, and hash browns. He lives on Twitter.