Octopus-armed drummer, composer, and multi-instrumentalist Mike Pride has delved into avant-garde, doom- and death metal-influenced jazz; conducted home-recorded experiments; and, most recently, teamed with legendary punk-rock bassist Mike Watt and guitarist Brandon Seabrook as Three-Layer Cake. Now, on his first set as leader since 2013’s Birthing Days, Pride pulls off an improbable feat: taking the high-velocity hardcore punk unleashed by his onetime band MDC (Millions of Dead Cops) and reimagining it as piano-trio jazz. This was a recording several years in the making, and well worth the wait.
Of course, Pride, alongside pianist Jamie Saft and bassist Bradley Jones, dares not offer some shlocky facsimile of MDC’s thrash assault. Instead, this outstanding acoustic trio, reinforced by an eclectic supporting cast, transforms the gnarly brutality of MDC into swinging jazz that’s downright catchy.
MDC devotees will recognize the trademark hard-charging riffs and political lyrics here, but it’s the intricate layers, expansive rhythms, and improvisational articulations that are central to Pride’s heady deconstruction of these tunes. Saft is his usual gracefully cosmic self on cuts like “Corporate Death Burger,” “Dead Cops,” and the Mellotron-fueled “Dick for Brains.” Meanwhle, the guest singers give hit-making performances: Dave Dictor on the title track, Sam Mickens on “Greedy and Pathetic,” and JG Thirlwell, who lends his enchanting croon to the deliciously upbeat “America’s So Straight.”
With Pride as the heavy hitter directing traffic from behind the kit, MDC’s barebones hardcore is elevated into a forward-looking wonder on I Hate Work.