Life can be summarised by certain places, times and buildings. Whether it’s your childhood home or the place you used to escape to – something that’s deemed as nothing by an individual could mean everything to someone else. For Drug Apts, it was the nearby drug apartments. Mid-century complexes built off of prison-style looks and came with a side of domestic abuse or criminal activity. After two EPs, the veterans of the Sacramento punk scene head into unexplored territory with the release of debut album Clean Living Under Difficult Circumstances.
Living in and amongst a setting that often came with a chaotic soundtrack, Drug Apts stick to their roots. Their clean living is illustrated by a sound conducted by angular guitars, overtly passionate vocals and an ever-present feeling of tension. Opening track “Stereo” brings this to the forefront with onslaughts of guitars seemingly on the edge as lyrics of “I am all alone / I am all alone / I am all alone / with you” are endlessly repeated. Yelps and screams are heard in the background as if the recording’s taking place at drug apartment 5A, putting you right in the middle.
The off-kilter vibes are embedded even further as “Black Coat” scurries its way through the airwaves with another equally chaotic performance of guitars and drums. A deep-rooted groove is present in the riffs, but Drug Apts soon forego any sort of accessibility as they shroud them into a swirling downward spiral of noise that makes way for a drum section that’s powerful and a joy to hear.
Titles such as “New Nam” and “Blast Break” provide further context to the theme of Clean Living, and also explore different directions in the record’s sound too. The former slows down the pace which allows frontwoman Whittney K’s vocals to project another retched performance, this time at centre stage, whereas the latter is a one minute blast of energy to get things back to speed once again.
Clean Living Under Difficult Circumstances is a fantastic album from Drug Apts. It’s a record that wears its experiences on its sleeves and jams both arms down your throat. Packed with ideas that range from genuine insanity to straight up catchy, this is a record that can unnerve and entertain you all at once, wondering whether it’s worse to be locked in or out of your own drug apartment.