In Case You Missed It: Great Wight’s 'The Suburbs Ruined My Life' is not the Pop Punk Album You Think it is

It’s impossible for me, a half-white, half-Iranian girl to try and imagine the black experience in the United States. I will never know what it’s like to fear for my life when a police officer approaches me, or being simultaneously hyper-sexualized and demonized for displaying any kind of sexual behavior. But something about Great Wight’s debut record, The Suburbs Ruined My Life, gives us a window into what it was like growing up black, queer, and Atheistic in a small town in Mississippi.

Erik Garlington, Eli Watson, and Natasha Johnson are Great Wight, and are forging their own path in New York’s DIY punk scene.

 Photo by  Nikki Austin

Photo by  Nikki Austin

Upon first reading the title of this record, I almost rolled my eyes, expecting to hear more of the same when it comes to emo and pop punk. Whiny songs about hating your parents, resenting the girl that rejected you, and wanting to escape your relatively well-off community for the lights of the big city, you know the deal. 

But this record is nothing like that. 

Great Wight’s The Suburbs Ruined My Life is incredibly honest. They explore themes of police brutality, homophobia, and casual microaggressions in their day-to-day lives. They don’t sugarcoat things in metaphors or in self-indulgent angsty language. None of the lyrics seem forced or strung together in an effort to be catchy, or to fit a perfect mold. Rather, the words are sung naturally and conversationally. Each track is refreshingly authentic. 

Garlington grew up in the heart of the bible belt in the South, which only intensified . 

“Not Black Enough”, is a vulnerable and powerful conversation between Garlington and the rest of society that seeks to objectify, demonize, and question his own blackness. Right off the bat, this track stuck out to me for how cathartic it comes across. 

Starts with a sparse guitar and piano melody similar to that of some of Modern Baseball’s quieter tracks from Sports. The track eventually boils over into a huge explosion of guitar and drums as Garlington sings about being proud of his identity, but his refusal to allow it to define him. 

There is incredible power in Great Wight’s songs, and Garlington knows it. The Brooklyn-based trio ended their record with a pair of tracks, “Red State Blues, Pt. II: The Solution”, and  “The Come Up”. These tracks weave together the same rage and frustration felt throughout the album as well as a new theme: hope. On the former, Garlington sings about embarking on an adventure to somewhere far far away from the destructive suburb he grew up in.

 The final track evokes a longing for the world to move on from a hate-filled, racist, and prejudiced past, and wishing it will never be necessary to sing about feeling hated and misunderstood again.

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“I hope I never have to write these songs again

I want to give people a chance and not be so full of hate

I want to leave the bible belt and rub it in their face 

I want to have some hope in the human race again”

Punk was created as a genre for outsiders. Punk music was a way for society's misfits to express themselves in a space that was all their own. But, when we look at the punk bands that remain iconic over the years, something isn't quite right. The Clash, the Ramones, Green Day, Black Flag, etc. They're all white straight cis men, quite literally the opposite of society’s norm.

Great Wight is one of many groups seeking to reclaim the genre and make their own space. However, the road isn’t going to be easy. In an interview with Dying Scene, Garlington talked a bit about the state of punk as an outlet for self-expression for those that feel like outsiders. 

“The true outsiders will still be there of course but I don’t see it ever changing in our favor. I guess what makes it attractive to me is the freedom to be or dress different and know that there’s a community of people that won’t bat an eye at it. Gotta take the good with the bad”.

Great Wight’s debut record is turning heads in the scene, and hopefully inspiring more “true outsiders” to reclaim their space in punk. Listen to their record, The Suburbs Ruined My Life on the band’s Bandcamp.

-Isobel Mohyeddin

Delaney Motter