The Proletariat were a punk band from Boston, Massachusetts. They were active during the 1980s in the Boston Hardcore scene, despite their recorded output having a decidedly non-hardcore sound; The Proletariat show more strongly the musical influences of bands such as Wire, and Gang of Four in their angular guitar sound and Marxist-themed lyrics.
The band was made up of the British-sounding American singer Richard Brown, bassist Peter Bevilacqua, drummer Tom McKnight, and guitarist Frank Michaels. Their sound was characterized by drums holding a militaristic steadiness while guitars alternated between jarring upstrokes and overdriven chords.
The 1983 release of their first LP Soma Holiday was hailed by Robert Christgau as "The hardcore debut of 1983" even as Christgau noted their sound was not hardcore per se. Named for the drug in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, the album demonstrates the band's artpunk roots, with lyrics examining social issues from Brown's distant, Marxist perspective, critiquing capitalism without embracing determinist revolutionary dogma. The band itself were actually members of the working class, most of whom dropped out of college to drive trucks and work elsewhere. In 1985, the band released a 7" and a second full length LP. Indifference, on Homestead Records, showed the band's softer side, including the layering of melodies onto the songs, with an appearance by Roger Miller of Mission of Burma playing piano on "An Uneasy Peace." They also brought in Laurel Bowman, whose soft-toned voice contrasted with Brown's (he would later find himself taking over vocals completely in a late, unrecorded incarnation of the band).
After a hiatus, Richard, Peter, and Frank, with a new drummer, formed a new band called Churn, which disbanded in 1997. All recorded Proletariat material has been compiled on a double CD collection on Taang! Records.
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