When it comes to punk rock, we tend to think first of the counter culture. A society of people that are against the mainstream and tend to be anti-normal are often quickly labeled punks and degenerates. That is why the core concept from The Homeless Gospel Choir’s latest release, “Presents: Normal,” is the idea of one not belonging and finding their place in society.
Derek Zanetti is best known for his work with The Homeless Gospel Choir, a folk-rock project that is based out of Pittsburgh. Zanettti has never been afraid to make songs about what he believes in, and his debut album, “Some People Never Go Anywhere,” was a healthy mix of social commentary and political standpoints. Zanetti as a musician has never fit well into just one label at a time and actually is pretty well diverse in his discography. It is the spirit of punk music, though, that The Homeless Gospel Choir really embodies. Most music by The Homeless Gospel Choir serves as a beacon for people who do not really know where they belong, and that is where “Normal” comes in at the pinnacle of this ideal.
“Presents: Normal” is an 11-track record that clocks in at just over a half hour in length. It’s the brevity of the record that serves it best. You know exactly what you are getting from start to finish, and it really doesn’t drag in any place for listeners to lose interest. Just like the rest of The Homeless Gospel Choir’s previous works, it’s not one style. You will hear hardcore punk rock tracks and slower, acoustic melodies. It is the diverse nature of this record that will keep listeners coming back time after time. There is really something for everyone to enjoy.
Musically, diversity doesn’t necessarily mean complexity. You are not going to find a hook or a riff that makes you change the way you think about music, but “Presents: Normal” has some catchy tunes nonetheless. When you listen to a track like “Sometimes,” it seems like a basic acoustic song that just plays a few chords, but then it really expands into this bigger sound that genuinely surprises you. It is this concept that you can find throughout the rest of the record. Tracks like “1983” and “Depression” will start in one direction before completely diverging away from what listeners would expect.
Lyrically, it is the spirit of punk rock that embodies every track on this record. While we have all been on these soul searching journeys to find a sense of individuality, “Presents: Normal” is a documentation of one such journey. What makes songs such as “Holy Shit” and “Normal” stand out is that they are real and have some substance. Zanetti is not creating something for the sake of being relatable to the masses. He couldn’t care less about that. You can really take away from this album the idea of being an outcast but finding where you belong and being comfortable with that.
Should you listen to it?: Yes!
The thing with The Homeless Gospel Choir is it is not religious music, but it does help restore your faith in the idea of individuality. “Presents: Normal” is a record that a lot of people will relate to because it comes from a real place. There are records out there that contain some semblance of an idea and end up falling flat. This is not one of those records. The Homeless Gospel Choir have delivered something edgy, meaningful and real, and it should be listened to.
Album Title: “Presents: Normal”
Length: 30 minutes
Collegian reporter Alec Erickson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @CTV_Ace.