Ism–Journey Down Your Drain (2001) review

This week’s album is Journey Down Your Drain (1996) by Ism.


For me, a good “Clearance Aisle” album is one that has little to no information available in the case, a description which Journey Down Your Drain fits well. From what I gathered, Ism is a punk rock group from Queens, New York formed in 1980. Journey Down Your Drain runs 23 minutes long, essentially the length of an extended play album (EP). The album is a limited addition release from Ism, and is the group’s final album before they fell out.

The album begins with the awesome opener “Concrete Shoes”, in which Ism urges listeners to get up and rally for what they believe in. The band shouts in the chorus “there’s no time to reason/ no time to cry/ no time lister/ I’m tellin’ you why/ can’t you believe it when I tell you/ I want to die!”, introducing to listeners what this hardcore album will feel like. The second track “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” is a spectacular punk rendition of the Tiny Tim song of the same name, featuring Tiny Tim himself. Tiny Tim’s soft vocals and ukelele contrast with the metal guitar and drums of Ism nicely. The  eerie “Journey Down Your Drain”  begins with two minutes of a piano-only instrumental, paired with very quiet, almost whispered vocals, before the song transitions into a hardcore second half. “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” and “Journey Down Your Drain” display Ism’s versatility in each of the song’s varying sounds.

Some controversy has been made over the fourth track, “Love Yer President”. “I wanna kill the president/ blood and guts on cold cement/ I ain’t gonna have no regrets/ when I kill my president,” the band says to begin the song, which continues in a similar fashion. Violent lyrics should be expected on hardcore punk albums; however, it has been speculated that this song may have partially led to band member Jism’s incarceration. Finally, the album ends with “Sex = Death by Chocolate”. The track that begins with some ominous piano and loud shouts of “Damn you!” before the drums and vocals enter. The lyrics on the song depict a situation in which a woman has broken Ism’s heart. “I thought I loved you but I/ I went to touch you then I/ now I’m so lonely inside/ you buried my love alive,” the lead singer screams. “Sex = Death by Chocolate” uses no guitar–the main riff is only piano and drums. The song ends the album on a rather peaceful note, as opposed to the rocking opener and most of the rest of the record.

Journey Down Your Drain is a fine, short look into the New York punk rock scene in the 90s.

Despite the album’s brief endurance, the album does not seem too short-lived; any longer would make the album seem drawn out. Yet, even though I enjoyed the album, the fact that Ism is an unknown band today is not startling. While Ism shows glimpses of flexibility on the album and may have maintained a small following in the 90’s, there is nothing on the album that would make it a classic. Perhaps $1.00 is an appropriate price for this small, unknown album.