Spirit Meet Up
Last Year's Lust
The Girls I Know Don't Think So
I Still Feel the Same
Despite all the rage, behind the walled grunge guitars and cathartic hardcore eruptions of Chastity’s 2018 debut LP, Death Lust, lurked not a rat in a cage but the big, beating heart of its conscientious creator, Brandon Williams. The lead singer and songwriter was already hinting at an affinity for goth-tinged pop—and a far broader musical vocabulary than was on display within Chastity’s DIY-punk trappings—but with Home Made Satan, he casts off even more armor, realizing he can convey his messages of empowerment for the alienated just as well with melody and nuance as with abject battery. And without screaming himself to the verge of an aneurysm: “I was getting headaches,” Willams tells Apple Music with a laugh. “I wanted to say hard shit without yelling and have it just deliver hard."
A proud son of Whitby, Ontario—a working-class westerly exurb of the east Toronto suburb of Oshawa—Williams is a dedicated spokesman for all the misfit “skid kids” who grew up in similar environments. Accordingly, Home Made Satan, which Williams made with his touring band for Death Lust, attempts to give voice to those on the receiving end of classism, racism, and gender discrimination with the same passion as his last record. But it takes a more velvet-gloved approach. “Flames” rings like The Cure at their most lighthearted, while “Last Year’s Lust” echoes The Smiths’ timeless jangle (this despite “Dead Relatives” taking a veiled shot at Morrissey in its dismissal of right-wing doctrine). “The Girls I Know Don’t Think So” is an anti-sexism anthem masquerading as a delicate, catchy pop tune.
Other tracks, like the crystalline hooks and thunderous aggression of “I Still Feel the Same” and the unapologetically ooey-gooey “Sun Poisoning,” might have been Billboard-charting hits if they were released in the mid-’90s. Ditto “Spirit Meet Up,” which could’ve snuck a little scream-to-a-whisper socialism onto alternative radio with lyrics like “With a full stomach and another plate to eat/You say ‘commie’ like it’s a bad thing.” That line, among many others here, was inspired by Williams' shock at the economic disparity he witnessed touring the US over the last year or so and the subsequent rise of socialism in response. "There's this whole tide now of Red Scare," he says. "Like, I’m a commie. That’s extremely positive, I think."
If there's a lesson to be taken from what Williams calls his “nonfiction concept album,” and underscored by its closing track, “Strife”—wherein the fearful character played by Williams declares, “You make your family as you live your life/And I’m making mine”—it's that only in seeking greater community can society overcome its ills. “This is not a 'fuck America' record,” he cautions, concerned that some tracks might be construed that way. “It's ultimately a record about the people's struggle. People in America are struggling. People in Oshawa are struggling. People in my town are struggling. So I'm singing my neighborhood’s songs. I want to reach the kids who the songs are written for, to have those songs be sung by them.”