Listening to Post-American feels like watching MSPAINT plant a seed, water it, and watch it grow into one of the most vibrant, unique flowers sprouting from underneath concrete.

Release date: March 10, 2023 | Convulse Records | Instagram | Twitter | Bandcamp

It only took one song from MSPAINT for me to decide to do this review. “Information” exhibited something fresh and special – freshial. Here was a song foundationally punk, but colored in by synth work and an attitude that was part cyberpunk, part pristine sci-fi cleanliness. Dark and light. A bit grimy, yet its plasticity was toy-like and ready for fun. It is all these things all at once, and more, and it just gets morer from there forward on Post-American, the band’s debut LP.

I won’t be as bold to say MSPAINT are the first band to do this because they very well may not be, but they’re the first to reach my ears and it was like seeing a new color for the first time. This felt tailormade for me – from song to song, acerbic and aware lyrics dug in deep, sung in a bellow not unlike the nu-metal stalwarts we hated to love back in the day. Vocalist Deedee has a percussive approach to singing, accentuating syllables hard with a staccato rhythm that also gives the music a hip-hopish energy and calls back to people like Sonny Sandoval of P.O.D. or Jacoby Shaddix of Papa Roach who employed a similar cadence and style.

This is 100% complimentary to the vocals, but still undersells them – MSPAINT feels wildly urgent, but they’re never overpowering or yelling down to you. In fact, if anything, they’re trying to yell up to you, as if trying to uplift with the winds from Deedee’s mouth. In the same song, in this case “Titan of Hope”, you’ll hear him play the role of an introspective, compassionate sage (‘Let your mind out/You just might find out/That you’re connected to everything‘) and a passionate barker chanting at a protest (‘The hardest things to speak on are real/But we’re not scared anymore/We’re not scared anymore‘). It’s a certain, very specific type of charisma I rarely find anymore in music.

This urgency definitely carries over to the instrumentation without treading into traditional hardcore, even beneath some of the more stoned, hazy instrumentals that tread well into soft industrial territory. Take the title track for instance, which has the fiery hook, ‘burn all the flags and the symbols of man!‘, while synths fizzle in and out of power, drums clanging and pounding, and guitars buzzing warmly as if representing that fire in the streets eating our imperialistic symbols from the chorus. “Think it Through” is more active in its performance with some arpeggiated guitars and synths, almost videogame-like in execution, but not cheap or overly manufactured to feel dull or mass produced. Despite the more synthetic elements of Post-American, any and every part of this music is wholly organic and heartfelt.

If melody’s where you get your kicks, MSPAINT has it in droves. “Acid” particularly comes to mind. It’s a punky driver, probably the fastest song on the album, with glowing synths mapping out a shiny melody along with simple, tasty guitar riffs that lift more weight than they appear to. It also has some of my favorite lyrics of the album:

‘Killers in the street, they appoint to keep us all afraid
Of what may happen, of what they would say
If we rose above action, keep the pressure applied
Muzzle flashes and axes, it’s up to us to decide
Captivated by a world that we cannot control
We’d rather burn than continue to turn’

“Free From the Sun” is downright sunny and hopeful. Instrumentation is as bright as a spring day, almost utopian in its mood, and some of the lyrics are beautiful – ‘Learning to forgive is a passageway to honesty/And honesty is willingness to survive/Free from the sun/I feel like I’ll be born again in the dirt‘. It encapsulates this elusive dichotomy in the music that doesn’t fracture your enjoyment, but rather allows more expression to be represented in the same amount of time. It’s hard to describe and gives it an enigmatic quality that honestly stuns.

It’s difficult to draw a line at where MSPAINT‘s strengths end because, from where I’m sitting, that’s all they have. At 30 minutes, this album is profoundly compact and utilizes the stylistic concept and artistic flavors to their fullest without becoming overindulgent. They even bring along a couple friends – Militarie Gun‘s Ian Shelton (who also helped produce this LP) and SOUL GLO‘s Pierce Jordan for quick, yet substantial vocal assists on “Delete It” and “Decapitated Reality” respectively. Post-American as a name may conjure thoughts of apocalyptic ruin, but honestly, to me it’s a vision of a better world, one that could involve the end of a genocidal blood machine like America, but regardless envisions a time of confidence, prosperity, and empathy for self and others.

I am so in love with this rash of artists who are putting compassion in their power to make some of the most relatable and vibrant art in years, and much of it is coming out of traditionally hard-bodied, unyielding spaces where strength trumps all. While MSPAINT aren’t lacking whatsoever in raw strength or power, it’s how they execute it that sets them well apart from the pack. What is it? Synthpunk, post-nu metal, industrial dance-hop – whatever you call it, it’s well worth the journey. MSPAINT could very well lead us into a prosperous future, and I have a feeling we’d be better off for it.

Band photo by Libby Sanders

David Rodriguez

David Rodriguez

"I came up and so could you, and fuck the boys in blue" - RMR

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