Certain albums have a way of arriving at the right place at the right time. In 2020, albums such as SARN’s magnum opus REAL SHIT arrived in the middle of America’s harassment of Asian/Pacific Islanders people. Pink Siifu dropped NEGRO in the middle of a budding new wave of a #BlackLivesMatter protest. You can sit The HIRS’ Collective in that spot because the album We’re Still Here showed up at a very crucial time: when transgender people (LGBT people, in general, really) are once again in the crossfire of transphobic America.
In addition to being called “groomers” and “pedophiles” by Prager U puppets, hellish governors like Ron DeSantis greenlit “Don’t Say Gay,” seek to remove books and materials surrounding everything including that of gay or trans history acceptance. Not to mention, also on the list of ways to bud your nose into business that isn’t yours is to overall ban gender-affirming surgeries, and label those who let their children take it “guilty of child abuse”. That is only a handful of hateful acts that directly counteract their love of seeing transpeople on XNXX on their demon time. Let’s not forget the added intentional act of calling trans people “drag queens” (they don’t know the difference and they do not care) and the omission of the T by LGB protestors looking to exclude anyone that isn’t merely in those three. So, it’s safe to say trans people, who for years on end have tried to be regular, happier people with regular, happier lives, are being sent to a more tangible hell than people could ever make out. Things like this is exactly why HIRS was born. They aren’t new to the fight; they are true to the fight, even if sometimes they just want to lay in bed and forget they exist for a while.
Past albums such as Friends. Lovers. Favorites. found the band, led by cherry bomb Jenna Pup, collaborating with star-studded punk and hardcore names such as Alice Bag and Against Me! songstress Laura Jane Grace. We’re Still Here proves the posse only gets bigger when together.Songs of loving the world and trying to love themselves cover an epic album where dysphoria (“Sweet Like Candy”) and confronting policemen (“Public Service Announcement”) are among the topics of discussion. This time, they brought artists such as future rap-punk miscreants GHÖSH, Three One G figurehead Justin Pearson, Garbage leader Shirley Manson (for the second time) and hardcore punk favorites Soul GLO along for the ride. Together, this collective cathartically kicks against the door of whatever powers seek to erase them from public existence. First, they begin the entire album with a bang. The title track fires on every cylinder,declaring We’re Still Here as an album of emotional release beforeShirley Manson ushers in a menacing chorus.
The genius of the slogan in question is this: “We’re Still Here“ can mean anything. It can be both the defiant scream at those who want queer people dead and gone, or it’s a sigh of resignation that they still exist in whatever transphobic country, city or state they reside. The album tackles both sides of the coin with songs such as “A Different Kind of Bed-Death” (a song about being in bed feeling dejected and depressed) and “XOXOXOXOXOXOX,” a lovecore song (that should be a thing!) with Japanese speed punk mainstays Melt-Banana. And they pull this off with so much fury and brutal bombast that you wonder where the hardcore punk and the metal elements end and begin. The only “breather” you truly get is a simmering spoken word poem named “You Are Not Alone” featuring Lora Mathis and metal band The Body.
HIRS top off the project with “Bringing Light and Replenishments,” which closes with declaration of the dejectedness that whatever community Jenna belongs to feels, be it the punk community, trans community or what have you. “We’re feeling drained, used up, and waifed/Half-empty, now spilled, unable to retain,” Jenna exclaims. “We’re every adjective that keeps us from leaving our bed, keeps us from existence, hoping for light and replenishments so that we can move on and share them and feel like ourselves again!” The HIRS Collective didn’t have to and shouldn’t have to make a record like this. It isn’t clear whether or not they knew what was about to come when they made it, but in light of all that is going on and all that will likely go on in this world, they did. And it came at the right time. Despite everything, HIRS and their ilk are still here. And thank God for it.