For better or worse, the sacred cows of punk are being gutted — for example, the now-antiquated concept of "selling out" has nearly vanished from the lexicon of underground music. Even hardcore — a genre that places a gigantic bounty on aesthetic purity and hard-nosed authenticity — is rethinking its orthodoxy. What can be done if the pure bombast of '80s hardcore doesn't speak to today's disenchanted flocks? San Francisco's Ceremony is best known for unrelenting, powerfully violent music, but it is among a number of ambitious hardcore bands (think Fucked Up and L.A.'s Trash Talk) being granted slivers of limelight from between the cracks. The band recently signed with indie powerhouse Matador (whose owner used to publish a prominent punk fanzine before championing the likes of Belle and Sebastian), and though Ceremony's debut for the label, Zoo, doesn't wholly abandon hardcore's tropes — misanthropic lyrics and boom-chuck beats — it surely fucks with the formula. Opener "Hysteria" rings familiar with heavy distortion and a gang -vocal sing-along, but the grooving "Hotel" pairs the wailing of singer Anthony Anzaldo with 3/4-meter stutter. The start/stopping "Community Service" could be considered a brutalized surf-rock jam, and it concludes with an acoustic guitar softly strumming out the power chords that anchor the song. Decry hardcore's dilution or celebrate its evolution, but Zoo makes it clear: As it is with everything else, the only constant in music is change.
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