In a year where my love of punk-and-adjacent music has been reminded (thanks 11th Hour), nothing has left deeper marks than Upchuck’s Sense Yourself. This Atlanta quintet channels overflowing raw energy into dynamic, propulsive sonic catacombs where there’s no hiding from all the ghosts we’ve tried to bury. Vocalist and songwriter KT weaves lyrical razorblades into searing melodies, spilling poetic blood about discrimination, bleak futures, and the decayed foundations left behind.
Musically, Upchuck is tight-knit but on the brink. Chaos looms in the shadows, and that air of uncertainty simmers like an impending lava flow ready to obliterate anything in its path. Opener “Upchuck” (side note: I am a sucker for bands with songs that are their band name) plods forward with unstoppable, slow-building momentum. The boulder gets to the top of the mountain behind the sheer force of dual guitars, a driving rhythm section, and KT’s emphatic delivery. Upchuck turns around and lets the bomb fall on the title track, infusing psych-edged leads into the howling squall.
So much of Sense Yourself is pure catharsis. “Perdido” – sung in Spanish by drummer Chris – moves between zigzagging bounce and full-on, cosmic anthemic spirals. Those angular verses explode in the expansive chorus as Chris snarls, and the atmosphere sucks in all the oxygen. Sludged-out arrangements give KT a base to launch stingers on “Wage For War,” the walls falling in as she bellows while leaning into its enigmatic charge. Once the bass ups the tempo and the high gears kick in, “Wage For War” unleashes an emotional fury.
For 36 minutes, Upchuck is an unstoppable force. At the center is “Facecard,” as good a song as been released in 2022. Frenetic guitar leads and blitzed-out rhythms peel back the skin to reveal the ugly truth at today’s core. KT is emphatic, weaving through acid-soaked line after the acid-soaked line. “The trifling yuppie fuck, comes out beyond the cut to try. They only want you for your facecard,” KT croons. “I see no fucking point.” The speed slows, and societal hellfire grinds everything to a seething halt.
Upchuck’s constant tempo changes, uncanny ability to cram unforgettable melodic strings into a righteous power, and contagious energy are something else. Sense Yourself nails it on every level. It’s a deep burner laced with ferocity, knowledge, and fury, filled with earworms and a unique amalgamation of styles and sounds. Upchuck has dropped one of my favorite albums of the year.