Rohnert Park is a decent summer record but not in the breezy, Jimmy Buffett-worshiping, cocktails-and-beaches sense of the term. Instead, Ceremony‘s latest is a visit to the dead zone of a sweltering season — a time when you have nothing to do but sit around, stewing in your sweat and apathy, contemplating just how miserable and unfulfilled you really are.
Ross Farrar channels that discontent as soon as his voice hits the third LP by the SF-based hardcore/powerviolence pushers. “Into the Wayside Part I/Sick” opens the album with a bundle of out-of-tune strings that grow ominously. Then, Farrar arrives, heading right into a tantrum. I’m sick! I’m sick! I’m sick! he shouts before declaring his disgust for fun, The Cro-Mags, telephones, America, the GOP, liberals, Buddhism, and himself. Threads of hostility are frayed throughout the record: “Terminal Addiction” revels in pain and the malaise strung through “The Doldrums (Friendly City)” even makes fucking sound monotonous. The ultimate worth of this all-loathing hardcore comes from whether or not that misery is manipulated into something constructive, and Ceremony does provide a handful of bright moments: The ferocious “MCDF” makes for a killer Oi! song, “The Pathos” is a fantastically straightforward blast, and the warped psychedelics and loopy voices unraveling in “Into the Wayside Part II” are inspired weirdness.
Still, Rohnert Park can never be mistaken for a loving tribute to the Sonoma County city it takes its name from. After a listen, you’ll pray to never spend a July there. (Bridge Nine)