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  Extension Chords  
  Thinking Machines  
  TMvFM Records  
Release Date:


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Late in 2012, Philadelphia hard rock act Thinking Machines released their fourth record. I have enjoyed their work in the past, and i think that what they are doing on Extension Chords is what they have been working towards all these years.

The record starts off with guitars tinkling, a slow build that eventually settles down into a great riff, the whole band just propelling forward at breakneck speed. Vocals come in, the whole band sort of "aah"-ing under the riff. At times, the clear mechanical drumming and the chiming riffing are reminiscent of some of Landing's later work. On the other hand, this is their take on the opening to the classic Archers of Loaf album Vee Vee -- the song has a similar feel. And then The Squid takes a slight twist. One voice steps forward and the guitar riff gets a little more new-wavish. This is called Gozu, and if you didn't pay a lot of attention, you would think you were on a different part of the first tune.

Gozu stops with a thud and then the drums speed up for Crisis. This chugs along, guitars chiming on the verses and grinding on the choruses. It reminds me of the mid 1990s, the voices sing some parts, scream some, and kind of drone some in a hesitant monotone.

Lungee jangles along on the verses, but grinds on the choruses, with a nasally vocal line. Kilowatt is pretty poppy, with a nice crunchy bass riff and some harmonized backing vocals.

On Lillian, the guitars really grind, soaring and distorted, just whirring along. In the middle there is a nice long jam with keyboards buried in the mix and one guitar using a wah-wah pedal. It's kind of proggy, but still very good. There is a short riffing interlude called Thorax and then we are in 1990s power rock territory for The Ghost. Here Thinking Machines remind me of Soundgarden or Hum, or perhaps obscure Chapel Hill band Vanilla Trainwreck. It is a sort of intense riffing with clear vocals and a generally poppy attitude. The guitars wail slowly under a bit of fuzz and sound truly MASSIVE on the choruses, all overdriven to hell and back. This is a great tune, and no doubt would have been a big hit in 1997, earning the band a slot on the Lollapalooza tour.

Sophia is another poppy song, the riffing and the rhythms jelling into something that i want to bounce along to, with some good headbanging on the choruses. It's another tune that would have been huge in the Grunge era.

Thinking Machines get back to their Sonic Youth-y roots on Wallace, where the voice is a little more subdued than elsewhere on this record. Discordant guitars chime in layers, while the drummer keeps an odd loping rhythm. I love that beat, the way that it kind of saunters along while the guitars just do crazy stuff.

Verb is slow and melancholy, the guitars grinding slowly. And then the record ends with Doom.React.Destroy, about seven minutes of heavy distorted guitarwork and loud drumming in a classic shouty noise-punk tune. A nice end to this disk.

Thinking Machines do not make easy records. They expect their listeners to put some effort into it, as they blend 90s grunge, mid-era Sonic Youth, indie pop, math rock, hard core punk, and metal into one dense, riff-heavy experience. There is a lot going on here, but at the same time, this record plays like one huge song with 12 movements, as Thinking Machines grind their way through the songs with nary a break between them.

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