Soul Glo Turn In a Landmark Hardcore Album with the Political and Personal Diaspora Problems: Review + Stream
In the roiling summer heat of 2021, Philadelphia hardcore act Soul Glo took to their practice space to record the 12 songs that would form Diaspora Problems. The material was conceptualized over a five-year period and harnessed in true punk fashion, under tumultuous and budget-conscious conditions. In many ways, Soul Glo have followed the tried-and-true punk trajectory, gradually building a fanbase via touring, DIY releases, and EPs. It’s culminated with the band inking a deal with storied punk label Epitaph Records, home to legends such as Bad Religion, Rancid, Social Distortion, and many more.
But Soul Glo are far from your average hardcore band. With predominantly Black band members, the band is inherently distinguished among a scene long dominated by whiteness — a topic Pierce Jordan doesn’t shy from addressing in his mile-a-minute lyrical torrents. In our recent Artist of the Month interview with the band, Jordan admits that this aspect — combined with the band’s utterly relentless brand of extreme music — can scare people. Likewise, the band jokingly diffuse the issue of race in the video for Diaspora Problems lead single “Jump!! (Or Get Jumped!!!)((by the future))”, when drummer TJ Stevenson is asked what it’s like to be the only white member of Soul Glo (something the drummer says he’s rarely asked in reality).
The jokes end there, though, as Diaspora Problems carries a serious and passionate tone throughout. Jordan’s pours his thoughts and observations — some political, others deeply personal — into rapid-fire barrages that set a breakneck pace for Soul Glo’s anything-goes approach to hardcore. Even in the first track, the riff-hitting “Gold Chain Punk (whogonbeatmyass),” we hear the astonishing phenomenon of Jordan’s vocals literally setting an ungodly fast tempo that Stevenson must catch up to. With the razor tones of Ruben Polo’s guitar among the fray, it all descends into a crushing metallic breakdown — complete with a trap chorus hook that will surely be the source of future crowd participation (Polo has since left Soul Glo, unfortunately). The best songs on Diaspora Problems master this balance of chaotic hardcore with more approachable hooks and a wide palette of non-hardcore styles.
That said, Soul Glo have the punk-rock playbook memorized front to back, employing various elements from the genre’s past when the song demands it. There’s circular post-hardcore riffs in the vein of Shellac on “Coming Correct Is Cheaper”; “Thumbsucker” tastefully ends with a horn-laden ska outro; and “We Wants Revenge” is a headfirst dive into vintage two-minute barnburner hardcore. Nothing is off limits, and it makes Diaspora Problems a delight to listen to. There’s not a lot of repetition, and for as immediate and spontaneous as the recordings are, every musical element and lyric comes off as hand-crafted and deliberate: all killer, no filler.
Perhaps Soul Glo’s most transcendent quality is their affinity for throwing out the punk playbook entirely. As Jordan told Heavy Consequence, Diaspora Problems was meant to contain references to the full history of American music, from Rage Against the Machine to Sly and the Family Stone. “Pretty much all of Western music comes from the African tradition,” Jordan said. “So, as a Black rocker, I feel like nothing is off the table.”
The heavy political hip-hop track “Driponomics,” featuring an excellent guest verse from Philly rapper Mother Maryrose, could be Soul Glo’s Rage anthem. Meanwhile, Jordan said the epic closer “Spiritual Level of Gang Shit” was Soul Glo’s take on a Sly song. It’s these influences and Jordan’s lyrics that make Diaspora Problems not just an excellent hardcore album, but a rare landmark moment in extreme music, when the collision of boundless creativity, cultural urgency, and musical skill renders genre boundaries moot.
Essential Tracks: “Gold Chain Punk (whogonbeatmyass),” “Jump!! (Or Get Jumped!!!)((by the future)),” “Spiritual Level of Gang Shit”