Codefendants – This Is Crime Wave (Album Review)
Codefendants – This Is Crime Wave
Released: March 24th, 2023
Sam King // Vocals
Ceschi Ramos // Vocals
Fat Mike // Bass & Production
Nate Noface // Various
All good genre-bending/blending new veins of music through seminal releases always demand a new genre title. New Found Glory’s blend of metalcore and pop punk pioneered “Easycore” in the early 2000s and launched a hundred bands obsessed with beefy riffs and rollicking breakdowns through a very sugary window. Syncopation, more relatable and real lyrics, and the inclusion of hip hop elements meshed with heavy metal birthed “Nü Metal” thanks to Korn, Limp Bizkit, and Slipknot giving new levels of no fucks to which millions of disenfranchised teens gravitated in the mid-90s. Even something as ambiguously titled as “Rude Boy” gained its most high profile popularity in the 70s ad ’80s as end result of an intense fling between the 60’s Jamaican street culture immigrating to the UK and the earlier punk and ska waves Britain was generating. Two-Tone was born and Reggae and punk have never really stopped holding hands since (parts of this record are indeed a testament to this). There’s countless other examples, but you get the idea. Something, something, musical evolution.
Basically, when a few folks who are influenced by multiple musical smorgasbords creatively expunge them in the right way, seriously great things can happen. Have NOFX’s Fat Mike, his legitimate felon homie singers/rappers/poets Sam King and Ceschi Ramos (originally of Get Dead), a couple of decorated champions from the Fat Wreck Chords rolodex like Nate Noface et al, and some seriously heavyweight guests started a whole other thing with their deliberately raw, catchy, anti-authoritative, largely autobiographical, and seamlessly executed This Is Crime Wave? This reviewer is not yet sure yet, but the potential zeitgeist this album and group may generate with such a walloping record could very well be immense. Plus, when someone as universally revered and/or infamous as Mike plays with, produces, and influences a new act to this extent, it’s bound to make waves (crime ones probs lol) and breed a litany of copycats. …Crime Wave is certainly something new, and like all good art it raises more questions than answers. Regardless of how you philosophically slice it, this album is severely good.
Chatting to Mike a few months back as Codefendants was trickling provocatively into the public eye while proactively not being a part of any social media beyond a website where you could buy a single on cassette if you mailed them ten bucks, the inveterate punk producer was universally excited and engaged with this new project. Since NOFX are one massive world tour away from shutting down for good at Mike’s insistence, it’s no surprise that after four decades at the helm of another band, he’s pumped to redirect that idiosyncratic creativity toward something fresh. That passion is extremely prevalent throughout this album. Countless trademark tropes of 90s west coast punk pervade triumphantly through the often gritty but resplendent hip-hop vibes across the record, all blending deftly thanks largely to the pervasive and gripping vocals from King and Ramos (and Mike’s lush but grounded production methods too, I’m sure).
The two frontmen are as open and honest as a lyricist can pretty much be, talking/singing/speaking/shouting poetically and concisely about their incredibly rough pasts and the philosophical outlook on the human condition a formidable existence has garnered them in later life as a result. Their evident drawls and rasps perfectly mirror the subject matter, and are themselves a deeper autobiographical representation of the stories in which these two honourable (but openly flawed) men play central characters. The combination is sublime and engaging across every single one of this swift album’s ten punchy and rounded songs.
All that said, the album does musically diversify as it progresses. There’s a fat chunk of DEVO-inspired electro frivolity on the penultimate ‘Sell Me Youth’, while ‘Prison Camp‘ is all chill reggae/ska energy, and ‘Brutiful‘ starts folk punk and ends as a fully recognized 90s pop rock banger. All are highlights, as this album doesn’t have a single bad track on it, not by a long shot. If anything, I wish it were a few songs longer, as the fastidiously swift manner in which this record feels familiar makes the ten-track half-an-hour-ish debut feel like a brief opening scene to a much larger show.
The record’s undeniable pièce de résistance is a devastating verse from NWA royalty, The mother fuckin’ D.O.C. For the uninitiated, DOC is an inveterate king of gangsta rap universally recognised and revered as a peerless lyricist and rhymer. He was on the precipice of a gargantuan solo career after releasing his debut masterpiece No One Can Do It Better in ’89 before a drunken car accident and resulting botched surgery left him with a fiercely coarse, raspy voice.
It may be seen as slightly ironic that the deeply gravelled vocals DOC now harbours cost him a solo rap career, yet is the very thing that sells his guest spot on this album as the best verse you’ll hear all year. The low, heavy bass synth thrum and minimalist beat of the backing track on ‘Fast Ones’ only adds to the utterly gripping, crushing, frankly astonishing verse the 54-year-old emcee delivers. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever heard before. Fuck yes, this shit goes haaard. DOC is without equal and should release another solo album ASAP.
Strap in and brace for weeks of re-listens. For sure for the aforementioned song, but really for this entire release. It’s criminal how good these criminals’ debut is, and is sure to bring paddocks of hip-hop heads that usually only dip a toe into punk along as dedicated fans. For those already firmly initiated in the world of Fat Wreck, you’re in for an equally ripping treat. No one loses here as these self-proclaimed honourable losers deliver you a cornucopia of intense, tragic, socially and politically conscious, and redemptive stories spat and wailed over excellent and perspicaciously realised music.
Codefendants – This Is Crime Wave tracklisting
1. Def Cons
2. Abscessed (feat. Get Dead and Onry Ozzborn)
3. Fast Ones (feat. The DOC)
4. Suicide by Pigs
5. Disaster Scenes (feat. Stacey Dee)
6. Prison Camp
9. Sell Me Youth
This Is Crime Wave is out now and you can pick up your copy here.
Review by Todd Gingell @toddgingell