Back in the middle of 2017, the good people at Universal Music doled out a five-disc retrospective of The Jam, celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of Paul Weller’s salad days at the helm of punk rawk. Chock full of over a hundred pages of glossy, black and white photos of punky punk insurrection and extensive liner notes, the reissue doubles as a celebration of year zero in punky punk mythos, the year that brought us Never Mind the Bollocks, The Clash, Damned Damned Damned along with The Jam’s double punch of In the City and This Is the Modern World. If you watched Baby Driver at least once this year, you know somebody is still spinning these records and talking about it.
One of my favorite punk records of that year also came out around then, a hardcore thrasher called Sodium (Jagjaguwar). It’s a debut, though Dasher has been around for a while—“Get So Low” appeared on Jason DeMarco’s Adult Swim Singles Program back in 2015 and Pitchfork’s Evan Minsker hailed frontwomam Kylee Kimbrough as “an unbelievable badass” a year earlier. Originally part of the Atlanta punk scene, Kimbrough ditched her old band and digs for rural Indiana where she regrouped and put out a record, on a label mostly known for literal barnburners like Bon Iver and Foxygen, that takes new ownership of what punk can express – an emotionally complex piece of work that distills her own lived experience into agitated bass lines and the concrete tumult of mosh pit rage.
Where a lot of punk mellows out when it gets emotional, Kimbrough makes expressively loud music, its volume becoming a space where fear and anxiety can turn into the kinds of art hung on walls. “I have autism spectrum disorder,” Kimbrough told me when I talked to her shortly after the record came out. “Looking back over all these songs really shows me how living with ASD affected me even when I had no idea of what it was or meant for me. This record is, overall, a girl on the spectrum in her 20s just trying to make sense of a world that seems bizarre and confusing to her.”
We asked her to break down the songs on her debut and, together, they tell a sort of story of what punk music looks like right now. We don’t have the Sex Pistols but we do have Kylee Kimbrough and her kind of punk is what feels alive in 2017.
“We Know So” has something to do with not feeling human, [with] feeling I need more practice at pretending to be human. People tell me “you should have known better”…so many times. [Hence,] me saying “We know so,” over and over is like a sarcastic response to that. But on that particular day I think I had met someone I wanted to know more but also felt afraid that if they got to know the real me, that they would run screaming to the hills…
“Soviet” is just about fighting a losing war. The war of my inner life and world against the real world we all live in. I used to speculate that something was deeply wrong with my brain. I had no evidence to support this at the time and “Soviet” was my way of psyching myself up to keep fighting the good fight, despite not knowing any answers and accepting that I might not ever get any. I lived much of my 20s with massive suicidal ideation. “Soviet” [was] a battle song for me to face these feelings dead-on and beat them by creating a persona as a warrior. Even a warrior that might lose and die in the war eventually, and finding acceptance with that too.
“Resume” is about all the times I got fired from all my jobs and trying to pick myself back up. Writing out a résumé on a computer was always step one, something I’ve done hundreds of times. Eventually I just hated the process. I knew I would never last long wherever I went to work. Something always goes wrong. So, it got increasingly more difficult to force myself to make a new résumé ever time. On this particular day, I’d spent hours writing up some crap for a résumé. I’d look at what I had so far, then just hold down the backspace button and delete everything. It’s like making a piece of paper to apply for instant guaranteed humiliation. It feels toxic to me to have to put myself through all this.
“Teeth” is a song about my friendship with Aaron Smith [the vocalist for Atlanta hardcore band Nurse]. It’s a vague back and forth about me pushing him to stop drinking so much, to just “let go” and him pushing me to get my own shit together. Then, in the song, we come to a point where we know we can’t save each other from ourselves. It’s more of a pipe dream anthem.
“Sodium” is about Aaron as well. I used to live in a small nook in the floor behind his couch in the living room. He would feed me and want to hang out. I have always gotten by through life by mimicking and copying people to figure out how to be. Aaron saw straight through me with this. He called me out a lot but the magic was that he still wanted to be friends with me despite myself. He became my best friend and still is to this day. Our first summer together was filled with horrible cheap food, we would scour the sofa and sidewalks until we could afford Tostinos Pizza or Ramen. We happily ate so much horrible gas station food and sodium-filled pizza, potatoes and ramen.
“Go Rambo” is a song I derived from an old standard written by Chris Kenner in 1963. [Then], Wilson Picket made it famous, then the Patti Smith Group went on to do their version of it in the early 70s, which was my favorite song that day. But there was a particular lyric [in it] that I didn’t understand, “go Rambo.” I thought “Rambo” was an 80s movie character which I dig deep into…she was saying “go Rimbaud” [the moody French poet]. I laughed at myself and decided to turn my misheard lyrics into my own version. I took the words “go Rambo” and made it into a song about what happens to me when I socialize for too long.
“Eye See” was a song I collaborated with David Michaud [one of Dasher’s original members]. Normally I write all the bass lines in Dasher but he brought this idea to me. I loved and admired him so much that I felt obligated to try out his song. I didn’t want him to quit the band. I didn’t want to lose him. I wrote the lyrics in the studio as we recorded it. I scribbled some shit on a piece of paper and went into the booth. He was there listening to all of it. It feels embarrassing now, it was such a desperate cry for love in the face of rejection. We tried to date early on but he dumped me. I was devastated and this song was my response to that.
“Trespass” was about being raped.
“Slugg” is not really about anything. The verse [part] is about me and my friend being too stoned to figure out which pizza we should buy at a Kroger. The chorus is just nonsense that describes, at best, one of those dreams you only remember pieces of then after an hour of being awake it’s all just lost.
“No Guilt” is all over the place. Kind of a snapshot of the inside of my brain on a given day. The line “When they both look back they can see the future,” it’s just a way of pointing out that when people look at history you can spot patterns and logically, without intervention, these same patterns will survive into our futures. The rest is just me in feral child mode.
“Get So Low” was the first song I ever wrote. [At the time,] I was playing in a shoegaze band that was really into heroin. I tried it but hated it and ran screaming from them. It was like good cop, bad cop: one person would say “enough I’m done” but the other would not be ready and would drag us all back down. Then that person would say they were done but then get dragged back down too. It seemed like no one would be on board at the same time so the ship just kept right on sinking. The band was called Abby GoGo. So my chorus is “you say go go, I say/Oh no…get so low/I say go go you say oh no/get so low…”
After a few months I jumped ship and started another band.
Sodium is out now on Jagjaguwar.