Cassie Ramone (AKA Grzymkowski) is a Brooklyn based singer/songwriter and guitarist best known for her work in Vivian Girls and The Babies.
This album is a trip.
It makes me feel like I’m a teenage boy at a skatepark in the ‘80s, but with the dumpster fire that is life in 2018 flashing apocalyptically in the sky. It cruises on a half-pipe while the everything explodes in flames. It’s at once cool and aloof, while at the same time scathingly critical of the world we currently live in.
It really is a trip. The lyrical themes swirl around religion, gun death, internet culture, and general destruction—making catastrophic doom and destruction seem weirdly fun.
Take for example “Please Mr. Gunman,” which panders to the current inevitably of widespread mass shootings. Our imaginary lyrical protagonists are begging Mr. Gunman to leave them be in school, the mall, or the nightclub, because they are all places of sin. “At the mall, we’re consumed by material things. In our school we’re learning evolution. Inside the nightclub we are drunk with pleasure.” They beg him to kill them in church because that way they get to go to heaven when they die. It’s tongue in cheek while being way too real and frightening.
Or “Kill Yourself Live,” which sarcastically encourages the listener to, precisely, kill himself over an internet livestream, promising that the death will go viral and he’ll be the most click-worthy view online. “When I killed myself live, I got so many likes. Go on give it a try, kill yourself live, you’ll never be more famous, you’ll never be more popular,” go the first few lines.
Pretty much every song on Digital Garbage follows in this lyrical vein. In a sense, it almost sounds like the lyrics were written by a smart-aleck 14-year-old boy. That isn’t meant to be an insult—I think it’s fascinating that a classic grunge band like Mudhoney can pull this off without it totally backfiring. Particularly “Prosperity Gospel,” which turns late capitalism into something that feels like a video game with its go-get-em shooter point of view verses—“Fuck the planet! Screw your children!”—going into a rewarding chorus of “Get rich! You win!”
Sonically, many of the songs on Digital Garbage remind me heavily of early ‘80s So-Cal punk, specifically the Adolescents. Like, I could easily imagine any of these songs coming out of that in the ‘80s if they had time-specific relevant lyrics. It kind of makes sense, as the Reagan years seems to be the most recent parallel between political unrest and politically driven underground rock music.
Although a great number of the songs here deal with the hypocrisy of modern day American religion (and evangelical Christianity specifically), “Messiah’s Lament” is probably the saddest of them, as well as the saddest song on the album in general. Written from God’s point of view, he wonders what the hell is going on with all of his current “believers” and how hypocritical they are: “My name is owned by con men inflicting their worst” is a standout lyrics here.
Interestingly, although Digital Garbage very much reads as a concept album, both the opener and closer—“Nerve Attack” and “Oh Yeah,” respectively—aren’t overtly political or commentary-offering until you think of them in the context of the rest of the album. (I listened to this album both in sequence and on shuffle writing this review.) “Nerve Attack” details the feelings one has before a panic attack—*enter the modern climate*—and the one minute thirty second closer “Oh Yeah” (coincidentally, my musical favorite on this album) offers the most banal seeming lyrics by far here: “I wanna ride my bike until everything’s all right, oh yeah!” Until you realize, considering this mess we’re in… so do a lot of us.