Muckraker bandmates mask their faces, not the message on scathing new album

Andy Downing

When it comes to the messagingon new album Every Man a King, released late last week in the run-up to the election, Muckraker doesn’t hide its intent. 

Song titles like “Abolish I.C.E.” and “The Stock Market Is Not the Economy” double as statements of purpose, and most of the brief, brutal tunes open with a snippet of a speech that reiterates the theme of each track. “Experts estimate that one percent of the U.S. prison population, approximately 20,000 people, [is] falsely convicted,” a voice intones at the onset of the anti-prison detonation “It’s Immoral at Best.”

Outside of the music, however, the band has opted to cloak itself in anonymity, the five musicians, all long-time vets of the local hardcore scene, wearing masks for press photos and concerts (“If we ever get to play,” the band cracked), and conducting interviews as a singular entity rather than as named individuals.

“We just don’t want the band to be about us personally,” Muckraker said (two of the band’s members participated in the early November phone call). “We want it to be more about the band and the songs and what we’re doing. … We’ve all been in bands where it’s been more about us, and about self-promotion, and we’re more trying to promote a message.”

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Though Every Man a King clocks in at less than 10 minutes, it traverses an expansive timeline, referencing 1980s Reaganomics and leaping back in time to the 1929 start of the Great Depression. Songs cast a similarly wide net in regards to subject matter,  Muckraker savaging the failure of trickle-down economics (“Trickle Down”) the court system’s overreliance on pleading out versus going to trial (“Take the Deal”) and the importance of not qualifying a Wall Street boom as a win for Main Street (“The Stock Market Is Not the Economy”).

The group formed in 2018 and reshuffled its lineup six months ago, but has remained steadfast in its founding mission. “This is the first band we’ve really started with an intentional idea behind it versus let’s just get together and jam and see what happens,” Muckraker said. “When we were thinking about what we want to sing about, I thought, ‘What makes me angry?’ And it’s really injustice and all the social unrest going on now, as well as what has led up to it, really taking it back to where those injustices and unrest come from. … These are issues we’ve been dealing with so long. It’s inequality across the board, and, if I’m going to get angry about something, that’s it.”

This anger is palpable throughoutEvery Man a King, whether the band is cussing out Ronald Reagan and Jeff Sessions, or bellowing “abolish I.C.E.” nearly a dozen times atop a maelstrom of rabbit-punch drums and slash and burn guitars. It’s an emotion that has only intensified in the aftermath of COVID-19, which, for the band, further unmasked the built-in inequity present in the U.S. economy.

“We haven’t been able to play shows this year [due to the coronavirus], which is a weird position to be in as a hardcore band, where it’s definitely more of a live format. But then we’re also trying to work through this [pandemic], and the big thing we noticed is that when all of the working people couldn’t go to work, the whole system collapsed,” the band said. “That was at the moment we were writing ‘Trickle Down,’ and it was like we watched it happen in real time. What really matters in the economy, and we think it’s important to remind people, is regular folks. It’s not the people at the top.”

While the album doesn’t serve as an endorsement for either political party, it’s clear to discern how the band members likely voted based on the targets at which they’ve taken aim. Regardless, for-profit prisons, an unbalanced economy and courtroom inequity will continue to be issues no matter which party wrests control following today’s vote. 

“These are things that aren’t going away,” the band said. “I’m not intending to pick sides, and I’m not offering any kinds of solution. I’m just bringing up the issues, and the fact that they matter and that we need to discuss them. And if you’re angered by it, awesome, maybe then you’ll start talking about it, too. And if enough people get in the conversation, maybe then a proper solution will eventually be found.”