When you start listening to the album Cost of Living, by the Downtown Boys, you get a light hearted yet energetic sound that makes you think, ‘This might be a nice little alt. rock album.’ (Possibly due to the occasional saxophone.) But as soon as lead vocalist Victoria Ruiz comes in, I found myself nodding in realization of the real purpose and genera of this band.
Immediately, you are taken back by the current-day punk rock sound that this band has crafted to a perfection. Vocals that expose political messages that are current and unavoidable due to Ruiz’s sheer emotion and intensity in her yell singing, on-top of classic 80’s pop/rock sounds.
Looking deeper and evaluating the political messages within the lyrics of these songs is another story. Like lyrics off the first track, “The Wall”. This song exposes the white supremacy that is and has always been within our culture in regards to Mexican immigration. How we need to hold our political leaders accountable for continuing this dated and prejudice history. The lyrics are concise, simple, and to the point. Which is the true beauty of punk rock.
And when you see him now/ I hope you see yourself I hope you see yourself/ And when you see him now/ I hope you look I hope you look
This first track then segues into “I’m Enough (I want more),” which cold opens with the sheer raw yells of Ruiz. Then into my second favorite track on this album, “Somos Chulas (No Somos Pendejas).” A song that opens with a lone dominate drum beat and an occasional eerie guitar strum.
Then Ruiz comes in shredding lyrics completely in Spanish. At first I had nothing to base the Spanish lyrics off of except the emotion I felt as Ruiz sings, “Somos Chulas (No Somos Pendejas).” Which translates to: “We’re Elegant/Intelligent (We’re Not Dumb).”
The band writes that this song is “A declaration of one’s ability to decolonize one’s mind, and the importance of fearlessly unlearning the ways white supremacy conditions people to think and exist…”
Although the album has 12 songs, it follows the classic punk rock formula with short and to the point music, never over doing one sound. They uniquely continue the bilingual trend throughout the album, and even include an Interlude “(Heros),” and Outro “(Bulletproof),” that offers a perfect lyrical poem to cap the album.
This politically grass rooted, bilingual, female led punk rock band was something I think everyone in 2017 needed. I can only hope for more to follow the outstanding model Downtown Boys has set with this new album.
By: Sara Wallace