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Special Interest, 'Foul'

Achy joints. Dirty bosses. An effing UTI. These are the ailments that pile up in Special Interest's working-class anthem "Foul," which details a bubbling frustration with bad jobs. The New Orleans band makes danceable punk music that borrows from the angular, jittery rhythms of '80s bands like ESG and Delta 5, with frenzied songs that carry a highly political bent. "Short-staffed! Overworked! Sleep-deprived! It's an art," band members Maria Elena and Alli Logout shriek in a call-and-response as a groovy, thumping bassline grounds the song's noisy chaos.

"Foul" briefly calls to mind another New Orleans artist who helped turn exhaustion with overwork into accessible musical perfection: rapper Big Freedia, whose "release your job!" command set the tone for Beyoncé's house hit "Break My Soul." But where "Break My Soul" was all motivational pop, an empowered cry to listeners to hand off their daily stresses at coat check before meeting the star on the dancefloor, "Foul" is the sound of being physically unable to do so. It buzzes with the energy of a fly trapped in a jar, as shouted complaints ping against the glass with no resolution in sight. "Foul" takes that enclosure and finds power within its limits, the music not a vehicle to escape life's soul-draining conditions so much as a place to confront them.

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Hazel Cills is an editor at NPR Music, where she edits breaking music news, reviews, essays and interviews. Before coming to NPR in 2021, Hazel was a culture reporter at Jezebel, where she wrote about music and popular culture. She was also a writer for MTV News and a founding staff writer for the teen publication Rookie magazine.