THE FEVER 333 THROW DOWN THE GAUNTLET ON ‘STRENGTH IN NUMB333RS’
By Nathan Leigh
January 23, 2019
If you haven’t been paying attention, The Fever 333 has quickly established itself as one of — if not the — most essential bands on the scene. Led by former letlive. singer Jason Aalon Butler, the trio emerged fully formed on their first singles, producing pure unbridled political hardcore of the highest caliber. Their long-awaited debut full length, Strength in Numb333rs, rounds out their sound with a surprising amount of depth and nuance, and most importantly fresh fire.
There’s a tired trope of bands positing themselves as “a movement.” On Strength in Numb333rs, The Fever 333 makes a clear distinction: it is a band of the movement. Kicking the record off as a rally for change, a news anchor covers “one of the most eclectic gatherings I have ever witnessed,” before the band launches into the lead single “Burn It.” That distinction drives the album’s best songs, from the epic breakdown in “Prey For Me/3” (“you’re not the only one that feels like the only one”), to the declaration in “One Of Us’” that “you are the minority / we are the majority / fuck your lies and fuck your greed / we are the majority.”
For someone whose preferred vocal delivery can best be summed up as “screaming in cops faces,” Butler launches into an impressively nuanced exploration of passing privilege, race, class, and ethnicity on the album’s centerpiece “Inglewood/3.” The son of a black father and white mother, Butler fleshes out the song with stories about growing up in Inglewood, CA, trying to find his place. The track switches on a dime from heartfelt ballad to shouted invocation — “while you were learning violin / I was learning violence” — as Butler notes that the oppressive thumb of white supremacy tends to flatten the distinctions between race, class, and ethnicity. The song has an almost operatic scope, like if Queen had been raised on Fugazi and Public Enemy. (If this idea doesn’t excite you, we live in very different worlds and I don’t know how to reach you). At the very least, it features the most brutal breakdown in a ballad ever.
There are certain watershed moments in punk rock, when a band changes the game so hard it sends shockwaves through the scene. From Bad Brains, to the twin engines of Fugazi and Quicksand, to the more gentle introspective revolution of Sunny Day Real Estate, what comes after them can only be defined in comparison. The Fever 333 is that band for today. From here on out, you’re either picking up the gauntlet The Fever 333 have thrown, or you’re a throwback.