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  Power 0.42  
  The Can Utility  
  Pop Faction  
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Although it's not really intentional, the reviewers of EvilSponge seem to have distinct genres. This isn't really set in stone; however knowing what we all like makes it easier for Brendan to decide who gets to review what. I'm usually the local Atlanta/Athens music person, who also has a strong preference for garage rock and/or bands from Texas. Apparently, these days, I'm also the Power Pop/Post Punk person as well. Who knew?

All of this is a roundabout way to say that I had never heard of Richmond Virginia's The Can Utility prior to be given their new EP, Power 0.42. On the first listen, I can see why the promotional material for this trio suggests that they are a post-punk group. Musically, that seems to be a fairly apt description. The underlying guitar melodies by Billy Davis have the angular quality that one would expect. Likewise, the bass of Noelle Schintzius carries much of the melodic work, and seems more integral to the song construction than the stereotypical one-note thump of more mainstream rock. Finally, drummer Sammy Ponzar holds it all together in a fun, driving way that propels the music quickly down its path. So, yep, musically we're looking at a very solid post punk group.

However, what really sets The Can Utility apart are the vocals. All three members sing. Furthermore, all three members sing in completely different vocal styles, which isn't something you come across often in the context of a rock band. First off, Schintzius sings in a very melodic, trained style (similar to the girl who sang in Atlanta band Crybaby) instead of the usual female power punk vocal style. Admittedly, on certain songs, like Merlins Blade, she does range more towards the yelling spectrum, but even that sounds controlled and lower-pitched than one might expect. Then there are the two male vocalists. Having never seen The Can Utility live (and since their CD doesn't give me any indication), Iím not sure which one of the two male vocalists is which. So we'll just call them Male Vocalist One and Male Vocalist Two.

Anyway, Male Vocalist One has the most traditional Indie rock sound. He's slightly nasal when he sings and seems at times higher pitched than Schintzius. On the songs where Male Vocalist One and Schintzius interact, the interplay between the two vocal lines are interesting and different, if only because of the mix of somewhat whiny Indie Rock vocals with a more trained vocalist. Nevertheless, the biggest vocal difference in The Can Utility shows when Male Vocalist Two sings. You see, this guy snarls in a guttural growl that is most reminiscent (for me, at any rate) of a refugee from a death metal band. It's totally not in keeping with the expectations I have from the music and I'm not entirely sure I like it, but it does add a completely different feel to The Can Utility's work.

That interesting vibe shows up in earnest on the third song of Power 0.42. Blood for Heroes has the hard and fast musical beat which is very post punk in its tone. It also begins with the alternating vocals of Schintzius and Male Vocalist One. However unlike the snotty call and response vocals found in bands like The Kiss Offs, the two vocalists of The Can Utility harmonize with each other in a way which bring out the sultry and Indie qualities, respectively. It's really a happy punk little song, until Male Vocalist Two makes his appearance, uttering guttural growls in the background. On the first listen, this juxtaposition made me laugh, which may not have been the intended effect, but it certainly kept my interest.

Likewise, Ronald Miller begins with an almost dream-pop, albeit angular tone. Then, Male Vocalist Two takes over, although he's less death metal on this song. Schintzius backs him up with additional vocals, and in this case, the two singers voices blend together in an appealing way. It's somewhat reminiscent of Babe the Blue Ox, although less mellow in the overall effect. Furthermore, I really like the way that the blending of the vocals mess with the preconceived notions of what a post punk trio should be. Similarly, Fish Don't Drink H20 isn't like a typical math rock song. Admittedly the drumming reminds me a bit of Plexorjet and Schintzius's vocal line could be reproduced by many post punk bands. However, her singing voice doesn't have the same barking quality one might expect. Furthermore, this song again features the guttural backing vocals, which return to give The Can Utility their different sound.

In the end, I'm not exactly sure what to make of the band. Musically, they seem like a very solid, albeit young band. However, the vocal mixes and differences between the three members turn them into something quite unusual and different. It's not something I would have thought to blend, and it's not something that necessarily grabs me. But the unexpected quality of most of the songs did in fact get my attention and made me want to listen to the Can Utility and their EP again.

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