(Self-released, CD, digital download)
Small-town rap often gets a bad rep from hip-hop heavyweights sitting in record offices in downtown high rises. But there’s something to be said for making your name with limited resources and a whole lot of passion. Sure, Burlington isn’t exactly a hip-hop mecca — its small but active scene barely scratches the surface of what can be found in New York, Philadelphia or other metropolises. But Burlington’s Lynguistic Civilians  just might be the ones to bridge that geographical gap.
For the Civilians, the good times flow through each carefully crafted lyric on their latest album, Better Late Than Never, a follow-up to the group’s 2011 debut, A Hard Act to Follow . With intellectual rhymes matched with carefree social commentary and sly humor, the album is potent. And where its lyricism is sometimes lackluster, the danceable rhythms and overall production help ease the occasional slip.
“We’ve been together for three years, nobody is busy like us,” the Civilians rap on “Funktual Fever,” an album standout. For a group just three years old, the Civilians are definitely making waves, as evidenced by their hectic gig schedule and increasing regional acclaim. And the LCs have been a fixture in the local-music categories of the annual Seven Daysies awards nearly since their inception. Better Late Than Never is further proof of that growth.
The group’s youthful enthusiasm helps push its lyrics and dance-friendly production, as on “Good Times” and “Give In.” Both are invigorating tracks complete with blaring horn sections. And both tracks speak to the idea that it’s not necessarily groundbreaking lyricism and poetry that drives the album. Rather, it’s the club-friendly beats and breaks that really catch your attention. Of course, this is hip-hop, so vocals are inherently important. And the Civilians’ rhyme schemes and flow are impressive. Even where things start to feel generic, rapper LC adds a feminine touch that helps differentiate the Civilians from any group of dudes spitting rhymes on stage. But more than that, the LCs simply make great dance music.
The Lynguistic Civilians bring fine musicianship to the table, and that sets Better Late Than Never apart. The Civilians amply illustrate that hip-hop isn’t confined to large urban areas. Without the subtle Burlington references throughout the album, you could confuse them for a high-caliber outfit from Brooklyn rather than the banks of Lake Champlain. But, regardless of geography, on Better Late Than Never the Lynguistic Civilians deliver energetic, quality vibes.
The Lynguistic Civilians play the Snowshoe Lodge in Montgomery Center this Saturday, October 19. Better Late Than Never is available at thelynguisticcivilians.bandcamp.com .