Bologna, Italy's post-punk giants are back at it again, this time with their second full-length album, Cascata, which Google Translate tells me means "Waterfall". So, a nice pastoral album right? Waterfalls are relaxing and peaceful...
But water falling is also destructive. Water carves through rock over time, and a big waterfall can feel intimidatingly powerful. Stand in front of Niagara Falls and you will feel the power of nature as it thunders through your bones and roars in your ears.
This album references more the second meaning of Waterfall. It is not a peaceful pastoral album; instead, this is fast angry and destructive.
Action Dead Mouse make post-punk music, referencing hardcore and old punk, but moving beyond that into an angry, angular world. Fugazi, Rodan, Mission of Burma -- these are good reference points, but Action Dead Mouse seem more than that to me. Maybe it is because their vocals in Italian add a layer of general incomprehensibility to me. I don't speak Italian, so i can only really focus on the anger and the rage and the pain that the vocalist pours into his voice, the emotion that comes through once the vocals are stripped of any denotative meaning.
And, to be honest, i really like it. In a way this makes Action Dead Mouse seem purer, more real to me. All i get from the vocals is the emotion, and that makes them come across as way more hardcore than a lot of other bands.
The record starts off with Ginnastica nell'acqua, which Google says means "Water Gymnastics". (And from here on out i will just put the Google translation in parenthesis after the title, it will make it easier in the long run.) The guitar picks out a quick melody, then a voice bellows, in Italian, off mic and echoed, angry. And then the band hammers at it, a fast tune with drums and bass and guitar all flying. On the chorus, it slows down to a sludgy chugging with the voice singing quieter, calmly. I love the guitarwork here. This is a good start to the album.
Unghie (Nails) starts with the guitar picking a sparse riff while the drums thud. This song is spacious, echoed, the bass and cymbals joining in not crowding everything. And then they step on the overdrive pedal and Action Dead Mouse seem to channel early Fugazi. A rollicking tune.
The next track has the awkward name È un disgelo o un corso di nuoto? (It's a thaw or swimming lessons?). I hope that makes more sense in Italian, but whatever. This song clatters like an early PIL or Wire song. The guitar is a trebly blur and the bass is all over the place, driving the song along. Catchy and dubby.
Alluvioni (Floods) is, quite simply, awesome. The band just tears at it, the vocalist really bellowing, screaming as the guitar tears by and the percussion thunders. The break in the middle is insanely catchy, all three of them just going at it. Wow.
The drummer (and i do not know the names of these people) plays in a scattered manner that makes me think of Brendan Canty in late Fugazi as he kicks of Cantieri (Shipyards). The song moves along nicely, that drumming driving the voice and the guitar forward.
Una Muraglia Cinese (A Wall of China) is instrumental for its first half, the band playing together really well. The interplay reminds me of The Slow Jets in that it is casual, relaxed, three friends who obviously have worked together for a while and are so familiar that they can anticipate where one of them wants to go next. And then the voice comes in, and the bands riffs in a different way, a wonderful pounding chiming. Really catchy.
Come lavare i vestiti puliti (How to wash your clothes clean) has more catchy riffing, the drummer thudding here like Alex Van Halen in Hot For Teacher while the bass and guitar dance around. And then the guitarist stomps on a fuzz pedal and it gets nosier.
Finally we wrap things up with Helvetica, a song that grinds with mostly unaffected guitar as he screams and the drum thuds. The layered guitar effect is really nice, and it brings the album to a satisfying conclusion.
Action Dead Mouse are doing some amazing things. This is a really solid post-punk record, and i wish that more people would give them a listen. There is a lot going on here, and a lot to enjoy.
Just like previous releases, this is available as a "name your price" on BandCamp, meaning technically you can get it for free. But these guys are doing interesting things, and surely that is worth a few bucks thrown their way?