Album review: Codefendants – This Is Crimewave

Truly stunning debut album by the new project of NOFX’s Fat Mike, Get Dead’s Sam King and rapper Ceschi that’s as real as it gets…

Album review: Codefendants – This Is Crimewave
Mischa Pearlman

There’s always some kind of distance between art and life, purely because the former can never fully capture the latter. Whether a movie or a novel or an album or whatever, it’s an inherently impossible task. Art can be an incredibly accurate reflection of that reality, but it can never truly be that reality. This Is Crimewave – the debut album by Codefendants – comes incredibly close, though.

A motley crew comprised of rapper/songwriter Ceschi Ramos, Get Dead frontman Sam King and NOFX’s Fat Mike, Codefendants depict the darkest underbelly of human existence. And while that’s nothing new – people have written about that that stuff (and about grief and death and loss and anti-heroes) for decades now – Ceschi and Sam have experienced it first-hand. Both have been involved with drugs, both have spent time behind bars, both have seen friends die as a result of the U.S. fentanyl epidemic, and both have been on the receiving end of the two oppressive, interlinked entities – the U.S. justice system and hyper-capitalism – that define America. Most importantly, both have lived to tell their tales. Make no mistake, though. This is no feel-good fairy tale. Rather, they’ve emerged bruised, bloodied, beaten, broken, but the fact remains they’re here. As first song, the slow, eerie Def Cons, states: ‘Survival isn’t pretty / It’s flesh hanging off of fangs.’

It's a bleak beginning, and things don’t get much better as the album progresses.

Across a genre-spanning blend of ska, punk, rap and hip-hop, Codefendants address systemic racism, prison life, police brutality and corruption, the fentanyl epidemic, gang violence, state violence, child abuse, class war, the drug war and much else besides. On the brutal, sinister Fast Ones – on which hip-hop legend The D.O.C. spits his first verse for 19 years – the band even take on the ‘punk rock posers’ who have infiltrated the alternative and punk scenes since it blew up.

But for all its political raging against the American death machine, the agonising mess of the trio’s personal lives are also interwoven into these songs. All three members went through break-ups surrounding the making of this album, and the devastation of heartbreak is present throughout here – in the tense self-flagellation of Abscessed, in the melancholy acoustic desperation of Brutifal, in the funny-not-funny oblivion of Suicide By Pigs, a song that manages to simultaneously shine a light on police brutality and failed romance with an equal measure of humour and pathos.

Elsewhere, Disaster Scenes is a harsh indictment of the USA’s prison-industrial complex but also a deep dive into generational trauma that includes a haunting verse from Bad Cop/Bad Cop’s Stacey Dee about the sexual abuse she encountered as a child. And while Prison Camp sounds like a pleasant tropical island ditty, it actually reveals both the nature of the prison code and the myth of the American Dream. The record ends with Coda-fendants, a forlorn slow-motion burst of existential angst that captures the eternal agony of human existence in four-and-a-half minutes, as the phrase ‘We are all we have ’til it’s all we had / Goodbye’ is repeated over and over as the song swells at the end before fading into nothing.

It’s an overwhelmingly powerful and vulnerable end to a truly remarkable record – not just one of the albums of the year, but a true modern classic that blurs the line between life and art as much as anyone ever has. Real, raw and unflinchingly honest, it’s not hyperbole to say that This Is Crimewave will stand the test of time long after the American Empire has collapsed and everybody on the planet right now is dead and gone. It very much deserves to.

Verdict: 4/5

For fans of: Rancid, FEVER 333, Astronautilis

This Is Crimewave is out now on Bottles To The Ground

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