01. Into the Wayside Part I / Sick
03. Moving Principle
04. The Doldrums (Friendly City)
05. Open Head
06. Into the Wayside Part II
07. Terminal Addiction
08. Don't Touch Me
09. Back in '84
10. All the Time
11. The Pathos
12. Nigh to Life
13. Into the Wayside Part III
2010 Bridge Nine Records
Go ahead and chalk this one up as one of 2010's more intriguing records. Intriguing not in the absolute sense, since Rohnert Park is inarguably more straightforward than 2008's Still Nothing Moves You, but more so in representing the band's stylistic shift during the last two years. Ceremony's previous brand of manic songwriting characterized by slamming solemn interludes right up against concentrated bursts of hardcore has all but disappeared, taking a back seat to a throwback punk style best described as the combination of Black Flag, The Stooges, and Fucked Up. So although it isn't necessarily treading any new musical ground -- one could easily argue that it's purposefully trying to un-invent the hardcore/punk wheel that's developed over the past two decades -- it remains extremely interesting in the context of the band's previous sound.
Elements of Still Nothing Moves You remain, just in a more stripped down form. The bass and guitar tones still pack the noisy edge, though they end up being more memorable running through mid-tempo punk progressions instead of bursts of power violence-tinged chaos. Ross Farrar's nasally vocals remain the most recognizable element of the band, though they feel even more strung out when slowed to a less frantic pace. And the low-key interludes, showing up in the form of the three part "Into the Wayside" still occupy a meaty chunk of the record.
But this is definitely not the same Ceremony. There will undoubtedly be some discussion of the "validity" of the band's punk rock shift and whether or not it's just a thin homage, but I see things in a different light. There are certainly many younger listeners who own Ceremony records but have only heard of Black Flag in passing. This is the gateway drug that will lead directly to kids digging up records recorded ten years before they were born, and to know that this record fosters such discovery is pretty cool. Rohnert Park is noisy, desperate, and far catchier than past Ceremony records -- breathing life back into a band that had never really resonated with me -- but it is also easy to dismiss as Damaged 2010. Maybe it's not the most intriguing record of the year in a purely musical standpoint, but its value as a link to the past for so many would-be listeners is noteworthy in my book.
Bottom Line: Ceremony's Rohnert Park is perhaps the most direct (and most visible) revisiting of '80s punk rock since Fucked Up gained so much momentum a few years ago. It won't be of high musical interest for those who already own a ton of Black Flag and Stooges records, but it's still an enjoyable throwback. Previous Ceremony fans with open minds are in for a good surprise.