Standout Track: No. 5, “Make It Up,” a speedy tension-and-release number that updates classic D.C. punk with a more complex sense of composition. As the band demonstrates that it knows more chords than Gang of Four, guitarist Matt Michel sings of well-to-do lefties who are apathetic to current events: “Privileged ones with unprivileged songs/World of mess/Blue-blood lies/I’m one of you, one of you.”
Musical Motivation: The 26-year-old Falls Church resident says that he got the idea for the song after seeing a fellow punk sing a tune about pursuing an On the Road lifestyle and “getting drunk.” But Michel also used “Make It Up” to blast the United States’ role on the world stage. “We as a country are in front of a lot of people,” he says, “and it doesn’t really affect how we treat others.”
RETURN THE GIFT: If that “one of you” part seems ambiguous, it isn’t to Michel: “I come from a privileged family,” he says, explaining that his father is a “pretty conservative” employee of the State Department. An American citizen who was born in India and spent most of his high school years in Germany, Michel says that living overseas on the government’s nickel directly informed his own left-leaning views.
“Because we lived all over the world,” he says, “we were exposed to a lot of different people and different ideas.” Ironically, he hasn’t yet exposed his globe-trotting parents to “Make It Up.” Should they ever hear it, he’s convinced they’ll see it as “kind of silly.” “They don’t think music is a worthwhile way to spend your time,” he says. —Brent Burton