Breakfast T. (Self Destruct)

By Bob Bahr

No other album I've ever heard more accurately describes what it feels like to be 17 years old. The internal boogie men that haunt high school and early college years get plenty of space here on Breakfast T., the last recording from Louisville's punk band Dybbuk. Isolation, fantasized violence, social facades, independence, resentment of parents, and more complex matters such as the first realization that our innocence is endangered — the five members of Dybbuk get all of them in. The hardcore punk format powering them provides the anger, the energy, and the fire that also characterize young adulthood. And, the lyrical approach is typical too: touching, personal, and at times overblown.

Witness the succinct description of alienation and how to conquer it in "Island":

I'm an easy target, all alone,

To break my shell isn't such a feat.

Unselfishly willing to submit myself,

To whatever will make my thought complete.

Often, Dybbuk hits the mark solidly, better than most hardcore outfits. The occasional glitch, the questionably cryptic line (as in "End of the Story" when vocalist Eric Schmidt screams "An anti-pack rat checks domain") weakens the impact, but there's plenty of punch on this vinyl to carry it. The listener must also forgive some needlessly ornate words from Schmidt, but that's easy when there are cuts like "Gift Horse," "Island" and the excellent "Perversion" on the platter.

Musically, the group demonstrates a satisfying degree of flexibility within the rigid punk form. The typical chug of half the songs is broken by the almost sweet melody in the chorus of "Heroless," the rush of "Island" that picks up speed and momentum from the opening notes, and the tight, razor-sharp unison of band and vocal line in "Gift Horse."

"Perversion" raises the band well beyond local constraints; this song could be a classic hardcore cut from the Dead Kennedys, Fear or any of the legendary punk bands of the '80s. A lot of loose ends are tied up by Dybbuk with "Perversion," the album's most extroverted song that envelops sex and a cynical worldview. A tip that this is still a young band is the title: a few years down the road, they might have named this simply "Reality."

The band boasts an impressive interplay of guitars in the nine songs, with one guitar often laying down the basic rhythm while the other elaborates on the chords. Drummer Alex Charland and bassist Jeremy Podgursky give it an elasticity with their natural-sounding grooves. Schmidt is a vocalist that does more than scream, and his clear yell pulls the effort firmly into the mainstream of hard rock.

The musicians' explorations into the big questions facing youth proved too much for guitarist Tim Wunderlin; he took his life last year. The band has split up, leaving Breakfast T. as the best monument to Dybbuk's growth and artistic vision.