L is for Love and Squalor
New Blood, New Songs
I discovered Love and Squalor because of Henry Brawlins. More specifically, a Love and Squalor shirt that he had, with an otter or ferret or some other mustelid wearing a top hat and monocle, and holding a jug of booze, as seen in the design on this flyer:
(Side note: remember Ronny’s? That place was great. Anyone know if it’s still an empty building?) So thank you for having a shirt with an awesome design on it. We all have stories like that, I’m sure. It’s safe to say, the music is as awesome as that design. It’s straight up Chicago punk rock, in the same tradition of bands like Naked Raygun, 88 Fingers Louie, Alkaline Trio, and the Lawrence Arms. The songs are Chicago working-class: fast, heartfelt, and they get stuck in your head.
There are few slowdowns in New Blood, New Songs’ 50 minutes worth of gruff pop-punk. The vocals aren’t in the Brendan Kelly level of grittiness, but they’re not as poppy as Chris McCaughan. And they borrow that idea from bands like Hot Water Music and the Lawrence Arms of trying to sing over each other. Layered vocals fill up the record. Songs like “Quelqu’une! Quelqu’une!” and “What Makes Life Worth Clinging To” are perfect examples of this. Not only are there moments where it seems the whole band is singing along, but there’s so many vocal parts going on, you have to make a decision which lines you want to sing along with. Cause it’s the kind of music that just begs for you to scream along at the top of your lungs. And they write the sort of lines that are just perfect for this. Whether simple lines like “I don’t bleed roses anymore” in “City of Brick,” “I pray for redemption / I pray for an ending to this” in “Home” or “I used to love this song / I used to be the hero of my own story” in “Quelqu’une! Quelqu’une!” or singalong after singalong buried under singalong in “What Makes Life Worth Clinging To.” “Wipe the dust off my face / I don’t need it anyway / I’d rather open my eyes / And cry into the light” leads to “What I don’t know / Scares the hell out of me,” which gives way to “I cannot let you down,” screamed over the triumphant return of “Wipe the dust off my face…” Singalongs make life worth clinging to indeed.
Love and Squalor released two full lengths and one split during their time. Actually, the second full length came out after the band called it quits. If orgcore or Chicago punk rock are genres to you, you’ll dig Love and Squalor. Poppy, but not squeaky clean. Gritty, but not covered in grime and filth. A perfect balance between the two, New Blood, New Songs is full of songs with a quick pace, and gruff vocals over gruff vocals. The live video below is a clip of “The Black Rose Masquerade” at Riot Fest 2008. It’s the only live video of them I can find. All of Love and Squalor’s releases are available for free download on bandcamp, so you have no good reason not to check them out.