This is the third release by Victory Hands, who are a sort of Atlanta post-punk supergroup, consisting of a bunch of people who have been in many bands in the past, here joining together to make aggressive post-punk with mathy rhythms. Right up my alley, as it were.
And yet. And yet this band and all of their releases have a theme, what Tracers used to refer to as "a schtick". And the schtick of Victory Hands is Richard M. Nixon. You know: the guy who resigned as president a long time ago. I was three and a half years old when Nixon resigned. I am only vaguely aware of him as a person, as a political force. In fact, when i think about Nixon i invariably think of the resurrected head of Nixon who ran for president in the 30th century in Matt Groening’s show Futurama.
Is that an accurate representation of the politician that this punk band is obsessed with? I kinda doubt it...
This "Nixon thing" of theirs ... i don't get it. But i am not a very politically savvy person, nor am i someone who really even cares about that kind of thing. So if there is some High Concept here, it is completely lost on me. I can think of two concepts they might be using here: either this is deep satire of someone i have very little knowledge about, or they are attempting to rehabilitate a disgraced and deceased former president. But i kind of doubt the second option.
I am not the correct target audience for high political satire. So: i have mentioned as much as i am able and willing to, and now i will move on. But you should be aware of this schtick, because i suppose that while it simply confuses me, it might bother some people.
This release involves two other layers. One is exquisite packaging. That is, Jimmy Ether, a local sound engineer and the bassist in Victory Hands, runs a record label called Headphone Treats, which release high quality vinyl releases. These images are taken from the Victory Hands BandCamp page, but they sent me a copy of the 12" and i can confirm that it is a gorgeous piece of vinyl. The whole thing seems lovingly crafted, and it is apparent that they put a lot of thought and craft into this object.
The other layer is the music that they put on this lovely vinyl slab, music that takes its lyrics from things Nixon said. (Yes, you heard that right: all Victory Hands lyrics are taken from transcripts of Nixon!) So the subject matter is entrenched in the satire layer that is lost on me, but i somehow doubt Nixon screamed, yelled, or bellowed these words in the same way that the band does. I also doubt that Nixon would enjoy the grinding guitars and pounding rhythms of Victory Hands.
Top Brass kicks things off with grinding guitar and bass that is buried deep in a layer of fuzz and feedback. The song is nicely tense in way that reminds me of Shipping News. I think it is the hesitant rhythm and the forceful vocals, although Mr. Ether's bass riff certainly helps with the tenseness.
Drummer Kip Thomas (who you might remember from such Atlanta bands as Haricort Vert) adds a lovely scattered percussion background to Dressed To The Tease. The guitar here seesaws all over the place, and when the vocals come in, they are singing more than shouting, as on the previous track, although other voices seem to be shouting along in the background.
The shorter Face These Facts speeds things up even though Ms. Thomas was apparently moved to a different room than the rest of the band for this tune. (His drumming sounds so distant!) It also sounds like the voice is different, although Victory Hands don't credit vocals on the record. No matter. Guitarist Donald Shawn Christopher lays down a lovely riff, to bring us to the end of Side A of the record.
Victory Hands mix it up on Side B, starting with This Kitchen which is less math rock and more jangle pop. Christopher’s guitarwork here is excellent, reminding me of Indoor Living-era Superchunk. But the whole song is great. Who knew that when you slowed down the math rock and eased up a little on the aggressiveness, you got really good pop music. Huh. Also, the lyrics in this song are ridiculous. After an instrumental break someone screams, "Take a look at this kitchen"! It's just so ludicrous taking things Nixon said so out of context. But the music is great here.
Tonight He Stands is an even slower song and the voice is almost, but not quite, a falsetto. This is actually rather pretty, and ends with the vocalists singing "Not for ourselves but for the ... aaaaagges!"
And finally the record ends with All In The Family, a grinding instrumental of under a minute.
So this is a beautiful piece of vinyl that collectors and aficionados will want to own, and the music rather good.