These past three years have been some of the most tumultuous in United States history. It’s been awhile since we’ve seen this much political corruption, discrimination and violence. A lot of people are fed up, and rightfully so.
The source of all this strife lies within Washington D.C-the birthplace of post-punk rockers Gauche; a band that takes pride in revealing the country’s complications. Made up of Priests’ Daniele Yandel and Downtown Boys’ Mary Jane Regalado and Jason Barnett-Gauche couldn’t have emerged at a better time. Their seven song EP from 2015 provided socially conscious omens for the future. It was a project that eventually evolved into a full length album titled, A People’s History of Gauche.
Gauche is back in 2019 to finish the story from four years ago; albeit a dreary (but realistic) one. Their debut tangles with irony for the most part-juggling surfer-infused guitar riffs, intermittent saxophones and fatalistic songwriting. “I’m running out of options, and I’m tired of being empty-handed” (from the song “Running”) may be the greatest way to describe how most Americans are feeling three years into Donald Trump’s presidency. And Gauche isn’t afraid to express this affliction.
Their transparency shines throughout most of A People’s History of Gauche; never allowing the listener to forget how fucked up society is. The whole album feels like a never ending sugar high with intentions to say as much as possible in so little time. Gauche accomplishes this feat for the most part.
“Payday” tackles the uncertainties of modern day capitalism (“Income, always think about payday/Always waiting on wages/Always think about systems”), while “Surveilled Society” interprets privacy (or lack thereof) in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica era (“They see you on all kinds of screens/They want you not to disagree/They scan you for diseases”). All important topics discussed; only some are completely explored.
Regalado is the clear standout, chanting her way through weighty production. “Rectangle” skillfully unpacks the evolving theme of the white man’s will to conquer; past and present (“Look who gets away/White men get away”). The in-your face approach functions as a catalyst for Regalado’s keen observations on contemporary society. It’s a style that can sometimes get bogged down by the density of these concepts (like on “Running;” where the same repeated phrase becomes tedious by the end of it).
Repetitive refrains such as “You have a history of conquering what’s not yours” (on the song “History”) is a sentiment that’s already analyzed on the aforementioned “Rectangle.” The latter takes a closer look into the implications of the white man’s plight for superiority, while the former acts as a mere prologue.
The entire album seems to be tied together by the theme of female empowerment. Gauche analyzes a woman’s role in the modern United States on tracks like “Copper Woman,” “Cycles” and “History.” Regalado successfully acknowledges all of the hard work her bandmates have put in to this debut (Regalado swiftly croons, “spit and snot and sweat and blood/all these things you cannot have” on “Copper Woman”), while reminding listeners who really brought life to this Earth (“I have a history with land, plants and animals”).
A People’s History of Gauche is an impressive inauguration for the D.C. natives. Their keen examination of a socially divided country can be equal parts riveting and introspective; even if some of the thematic elements don’t always expand beyond surface level ideas. Through all of the chaos, Gauche is able to conjure up a conviction most of us can agree with (regardless of where you may fall on the political spectrum)-the fact that history does indeed repeat itself.