EvilSponge is known for reviewing the obscure. We don't cover a lot of "buzz" bands, and those we do we tend to dis (just look at our review of the first Strokes record, or the fact that we dared to dislike a Radiohead release!). This is because one of my personal mottos is a phrase by the poet Flava Flav: "Yo, don't believe that hype."
Some bands / records just get so talked up that it seems like everyone is just nodding in agreement. There is no real discussion on certain things, no real criticism. And i think our point is made when some of these things fade from view rather rapidly. I mean, when is the last time anyone talked about Amnesiac?
So it must be odd to see EvilSponge reviewing the debut release by current buzz band Perfect Pussy. But, well, their promo people sent us this. And i like it. Well, most of it, but we'll get to that in a bit.
It is not a perfect record by any stretch. The band went from a sort of joke (they were put together to play a scene in a film) to be talked about all over the internet, to playing SxSW to acclaim, all in a year or so. And now they finally have an album out. Well, it's really more of an EP. The total length is 31:38, but there are at least five minutes of nothing but quiet feedback on the record. That could easily have been cut...
And adding a long, faint feedback end to a song more or less precludes it from getting played on the radio. The songs here tend to end with a half a minute of what most people listening to a broadcast would think of as "some sort of error at the station". This same sound also messes up playlists. If you are making an list if energetic songs for your workout, the quiet feedback that ends Perfect Pussy tunes will throw you off. Bands need to start thinking about this stuff...
But they are a noise punk band. Distortion is applied liberally over everything they do. Even the vocals. Meredith Graves appears to sing through one of those mics that you click to overdrive the voice, and if you leave it on when you are not talking into it, the thing squeals. I don't know what that is called, but i have seen them used. Well, Graves appear to sing mostly through that, and she keeps it on, so the mic squeal punctuates their tunes.
When she is using the mic, Graves screams and speaks words through that heavy distortion. The overall effect of her vocal style is that it is more of a roar and individual words cannot really be determined for the most part. So, lyrics are not an issue for this band. That's cool with me, but i know that it bugs some people.
The guitarwork might bother some people too. Guitarist Ray McAndrew is obviously a Sonic Youth fan, and his playing really reminds me of early Lee Renaldo. That's a good thing really, but i know that the oddness and non-melodic playing will annoy some listeners.
Added to the distorted voice and that jangly overdriven guitar are prominent keys droning in the background, courtesy of Shaun Sutkus. The rhythm section of drummer Garrett Koloski and bassist Greg Ambler move forward at breakneck speed, the bass rumbling by and the drums just thundering.
The overall effect is loud, fast, and with a hint of anger. Call it punk rock, but overdriven and distorted into noise territory.
Driver kicks the album off with jangly fast guitar, which is soon joined by the rest of the band, Graves distorted and spitting her words fast. As it grows, she gets faster and more distorted, until the very song falls apart, the guitar riff disintegrating into feedback while she rants into the mic. Nice.
Bells is not that different really. Slightly different riffs, but it moves along just as furiously as Driver, eventually disintegrating into a keyboard squeal.
Big Stars starts slower, the band jangling along. Graves come in and the drums step up the beat a little, but the guitar jangles forward at its own pace. Sutkus's keyboards chime new wavily. That might seem messy, and it is a little, but it also really works. The songs ends with about half a minute of feedback, the guitar squealing slowly to an end.
Work again has the new wavey keyboards, but the rhythm here is more Minor Threat than anything -- there is even a five second bass solo in the middle! So punk rock!
The new wavishness continues to grow on Interference Fits. The guitars jangle under some distortion, while Graves is speaking through really heavy distortion. This could have been a Kim Gordon song on Evol. I just love the way the guitar tears through this song, speeding up and slowing down. This is probably my favorite tune here, and is also the title track, as the noise parts for a minute and Graves screams, "Since when do we say yes to love?" The last 40 seconds are keyboard drone fading out into a fuzzy amplifier.
Dig just tears forward, McAndrew throwing down a great yet simple riff as the band thunders forward.
Advance Upon the Real is even faster, the whole band just hurling forward like an old punk band. It is a minute and a half of screaming, fast riffing, and pounding the shit out of the drums. But then the last 3:34 of the track is amplifier hiss with some faint drones way in the background. That shit really needs to be edited out...
The drone and hiss move along, and eventually a lot of unfocused keyboard burbling comes in, reverbing loudly. the track is called VII and it grows, getting more chaotic and more distorted. Voices wander by, spoken and undistorted in themselves (unusual for this release), but buried under hissing, overdriven sounds. This goes on for four and a half minutes. It will try the patience of most listeners, but i understand it in the context of Sonic Youth-damaged bands. However, i must point out that even SY learned to put this kind of stuff on special releases (the SY series) and spare their regular "pop" records from this experimentation.
My verdict: end the record 1:30 into Advance Upon the Real and you have a really great noise punk EP. The rest of the record can mostly be ignored. Or, rather, listened to once, then forgotten.
Still, it sounds exciting. The band has a lot of energy, and they were able to portray that here on this record. It sounds fun and fresh and a little different. I look forward to what they do next.