Deaf Wish (Australia, Sub Pop), Rays, Nopes
Lithium Zion is the band's fifth full-length album (and second for Sub Pop following 2015s Pain), and while its a rare case that a groups fifth album is their best, particularly any band operating under a loud fast rules ethos, Deaf Wish make a strong case as the exception. Their previous albums were all recorded in makeshift studios (Is that a basement with some quilts stapled to the ceiling? Now its a studio!), which of course is a wise aesthetic choice for capturing the hazardous riffing, chemically-stained vocals and fiery rhythms conjured by a group such as this, but this step toward a slightly more professional sound only enhances their power - think of the difference between a tangled pile of firecrackers and a red stick of TNT lodged in a hornets nest. The record opens with Easy, a languid rocker in the rich Australian tradition of groups like X and The Scientists. From there its onto FFS, a moody downhill rocker sung by guitarist Sarah Hardiman (I feel like a fool / out playing pool / hitting on you) that confirms Deaf Wishs relation to fellow Sub Pop employees like feedtime and Hot Snakes. The Rat Is Back is tense and epic; Hitachi Jackhammer pays a brief and noisy tribute to Hitachis second most notable device (youd be forgiven for assuming this song is about vibrators). Lithium Zion is a veritable buffet of garage-punk energy, post-punk pathos, sardonic wit and the fearlessness that comes with Aussie rock, a natural consequence for anyone living on a continent teeming with grapefruit-sized spiders and man-eating mosquito swarms.
As has always been the case, the whole group shares vocal duties, even drummer Daniel Twomey (you know the band is slightly unhinged if theyre letting the drummer sing). Hardiman and Tjhung are as ragged and hairy as ever, chugging along as though krautrock was trying to speed past the late 70s but got caught in the sticky grasp of punk. Such is the way of Deaf Wish, a group destined to write songs that are simultaneously stupid and sublime, vulnerable and ferocious, and play them with the unbridled intensity they demand. Anyone serving a life sentence to rock will surely concur.
On Rays' debut album the band spins eleven tunes of wiry, urgent post-punk, one foot planted firmly in the nihilistic apathy of 70 & 80s punk (Wire, Electric Eels, Pere Ubu, Eno, Television The Fall), Australian punk past & present (UV Race, Terry, Victims, Babeez), and the addictive strum of 80s & 90s New Zealand/Flying Nun pop; all of whom have found their own way to meld the ferocity & thuggery of punk with a singular melodic voice. RAYS are no different; the swirling jangle of Attic starts the album off, sardonically extolling the joy of attic life with Hannans monotone conveying an underlying sense of dread & isolation. Dead Mans Curve, with its hook-filled, organ-laden chorus plays like a lost teenage tragedy song, celebrating the desperation & angst of reckless youth. Elsewhere, tunes like Theatre of Lunacy, Made of Shadows & Drop Dead rage with a desperate fire, speaking to the absurdities of everyday life, but with a wry smile. Shit is fucked, but the members of RAYS seem intent on finding humor within the worlds everyday desperation, because sometimes thats the only way to stay sane. Pain & Sorrow, Back Downtown all speak to these truths. The album ends with Hannons Over and Over, its sweet melody belying a derisive outlook on the necessity of modern life & the repetition it requires.
Throughout it all, RAYS debut never feels angry, Recorded by Bay-area stalwart Kelley Stoltz & mastered by Australian tone-genius Mikey Young (Total Control/Eddy Current Suppression Ring) RAYS is a joyous album packed with weird new-wave swirls and sugar-sticky hooks.
Never Heard of It, the debut full-length by Bay Area punk foursome Nopes, features 12 squirmy songs, each a sputtering projectile following its own discrete, haphazard trajectory. As for mood, that dopey, deadbeat-chic album cover is telling: On Never Heard of It, day jobs are a scourge and jokes abound (even if its just naming a song Duran Duran Duran). But more than other garage-adjacent punk records, the players are distinct enough to animate a dozen tracks: the rhythm section swerves and strikes like boxers, in unison, until violently entangled. Fighting imagery aside, its the impish and kinetic guitar that has the lead voice on this album, with its zippy melodic runs and pitch-bent discord. - Sam Lefebvre, Bandcamp
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