Lately, every time I write about a new song or album through the lens of the pandemic, I think to myself, “This is going to be the last COVID-19-inspired writing I’m ever going to do.” I’m finding it hard to maintain the mental stamina needed to cope, and I long for a time when we all could focus on something more positive, more optimistic. But then I hear the unbridled energy and ferocity of a song like “Degenerates” from the Mississauga-based trio JONCRO, and I’m reminded that the pandemic is just one of many perspectives from which to listen and respond to music this year.
Faced with months of isolation, JONCRO’s Daniel Wilson (guitar and vocals), Kieran Christie (bass), and Matthew Mikuljan (drums) have steadily been dropping amped-up DIY punk recordings, some of which are making their way onto a collected EP to be released September 4. JONCRO initially released “Degenerates” back in June but has now gone into the studio to lay down an equally ripping “hi-fi” version. The song itself is a reaction to anti-Black racism and systemic police brutality towards Black people. No matter which version of the song you listen to, you’ll hear — and feel — the spontaneous creativity, the frustration, and call to action Wilson must have felt watching protests and uprisings in the wake of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd’s murders.
“My brothers and sisters dead,” Wilson wails, lamenting that there is “nothing I can do,” capturing the feeling of being caught between choosing one’s physical safety in the face of an infectious virus and feeling the need to take to the streets to fight back against social injustice. “Degenerates” is precisely the kind of in-your-face reminder I needed that there is no taking a break when it comes to fighting for the basic human rights for Black lives.