The video for the Brooklyn band’s debut single centers around the fucked-up nature of our justice system, linking the emotions experienced while imprisoned to universally understood feelings boredom, isolation and fear
“A barcode, a barcode arriving by the busload // Friends, family all things will erode // A new book, tough look, commissary, chow time //Quantify the surplus so to deter crime and—”
To say our justice system is a disgrace would be the understatement of the century.
Money is a pre-requisite for the presumption of innocence. It’s not about the safety of society, but keeping power structures in place. There’s no attempt to rehabilitate, just to incarcerate, and thus prisoners are treated like cattle: individuals are robbed of individualism, humans are stripped of their humanity and every living, breathing, beautiful person becomes nothing but a number.
It’s this appalling approach, the intentional erasure of one’s existence, that Brooklyn linear post-punk band Consumables rip into with their debut single, “Numbers and a Barcode,” which dropped in early September. And it’s a concept that’s illustrated further, in gloriously manic form, by the song’s accompanying music video, which I could not be more stoked to premiere here.
While there’s certainly nothing wrong with an artist putting themselves in another’s shoes and attempting to write from an alternate perspective, “Numbers and a Barcode” isn’t an example of the art of assumption, and the lyrics, feelings and themes aren’t a work of imagination. The song is based not on the fictional but the actual firsthand experience of Consumables guitarist + vocalist Kyle Crew, who ahead of the release shared a little bit about the song, its inspiration and the timely relatability over email.
“Some songs take a lot of tinkering to get it dialed in just right; ‘Numbers and a Barcode’ was written in a flash. The stream-of-conscious lyrics come from my couple of months of incarceration as yet another person maimed from the futile ‘war on drugs.’ I think it’s hard to articulate just how fucked up our in-justice system is without taking a look at it from the ‘inside.’ Nonetheless, the isolation, fear, and intense boredom that it produced is something I’m sure a lot of us are experiencing in this pandemic, albeit less amplified.”
The video (incredibly well done) ties those two experiences together, linking the homes that we all found ourselves semi-trapped in during 2020 to an actual prison, illustrating not just claustrophobia but a confinement-induced insanity.
Kicking-off and concluding with the band in an apartment, the middle of the video is a fever dream of jail scenes and frenetic live music as we watch Kyle and his bandmates be branded and brainwashed while fighting to maintain their memories and sense of self as a system works to reduce them to digits and file them away. Meanwhile, actual numbers are illustrated by both the clock of a microwave and the actual barcode being tattooed on the back of Kyle’s neck, which is obscured the end of the song, leaving you to wonder what happened when—or if the whole imprisonment even happened at all. (This is, on some level, perhaps how we all felt after re-emerging from our homes and re-entering the world—a disorienting snap back to *near* normalcy after a strange year of fear that somehow, just months later, feels completely unimaginable.)
Finally, while not the exact centerpiece of the video, Consumables’ live performance permeates it, and for good reason: they’re killllller on stage. And the good news is you have TWO chances to catch them in the coming months: October 22nd with Gift at The Broadway and at TV Eye on November 6th for the band’s EP release.
Check out Consumables’ very rad video above, take advantage of Bandcamp Friday to add the song to your library, and if you have the means, consider donating to an organization like The Bail Project, The Innocence Project or The Last Prisoner Project that aim to help those screwed by an awful system.
And stay tuned for more music from what’s already become one of my favorite Brooklyn bands. I seriously can’t wait to see what they come out with next.
Feature image provided by the band.