Institute ‎– Subordination

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Institute continue to push against the boundaries of what it means to be punk -- as well as conformity in general -- on their second album Subordination. They had already added heroic doses of post-punk and other influences to the thrash-punk roots on their first full-length Catharsis, and here they broaden their horizons with touches of glam and hard rock. Although this is an unexpected move for the band, it fits in well with the rawer side of post-punk that their label Sacred Bones has always championed, as well as '70s revivalists like Cheena. Institute continue to churn out a thick, noxious sound -- you can almost smell the burning fossil fuel on "Oil Money" -- but Subordination's old-school rock theatrics add more color and form to their din. Call-and-response guitars help delineate the melee of "Prissy Things," while "Human Law" teeters between brash and spooky with a scope that approaches prog rock. Meanwhile, Moses Brown's gruff incantations and snarls remain as compelling as ever, even though they're part of Institute's dank mix of sounds rather than the focal point. That does nothing to diminish their charisma and intensity on songs like the lunging "Exhibitionism," where he sneers "comfortably" with more venom each time he repeats it. It's tempting to want to hear him more clearly, but the feeling of deep-seated alienation that permeates Subordination is more important than its lyrics. "Only Child" suggests this feeling of isolation started early, while "Too Dumb" and "Good Ol' Boys" are too cryptic to be anthems despite their huge riffs. Similarly, on the surging "Powerstation," Brown's rants feel less like a call to arms than one man unleashing his fury at an uncaring entity. Even with its more overtly political leanings, Subordination hints that the band might be having a little more fun this time around -- an unexpected combination that's quintessentially Institute.

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