There’s a lot happening in the music world, and we here at Heavy Blog try our very best to keep up with it! Like the vast majority of heavy music fans, our tastes are incredibly vast, with our 3X3s in each Playlist Update typically covering numerous genres and sometimes a different style in each square. While we have occasionally covered non-metal topics in past blog posts, we decided that a dedicated column was warranted in order to more completely recommend all of the music that we have been listening to. Unmetal Monday is a bi-weekly column which covers noteworthy tracks and albums from outside the metal universe, and we encourage you all to share your favorite non-metal picks from the week in the comments. This week, we’ll be highlighting a few albums and tracks that struck our fancy over the past few weeks. Head past the jump to dial down the distortion:
Palberta – Roach Goin’ Down
It’s misleading to say “no wave” has crept back into the genre shadows over the years, mainly because the movement was always meant as an anti-genre; the title itself is a not-so-subtle jab at “new wave,” after all. From its early days in the 80s, bands in the no wave movement bastardized existing genres and ultimately ended up contributing to the evolution of styles old and new. There’s no shortage of bands from the movement I could highlight, but to my ears, Palberta most proudly carries the torch from UT. Both are all-female no wave trios that create challenging, off-kilter bursts of sound and deserve a great deal more attention from fans of experimental rock and the avant-garde.
As is the case with all no wave bands, Palberta cycles through several genres on Roach Goin’ Down. Across a hefty 22 tracks, the trio of self-proclaimed “sophisticated ladies” toy with post-punk, noise rock, psychedelic rock, art punk, indie rock and more, all with a fearless riot grrrl mentality. Each track runs from just over a minute up to a whopping two-and-a-half minutes, and while these terse runtimes might not offer expansive soundscapes, it does produce a disorienting experience of constantly shifting, bizarre musical ideas.
It’s genuinely difficult to find your footing with Roach Goin’ Down, in a good way. With each new eruption of angular riffing and brash vocal harmonies, the trio presents a new idea to latch onto before abruptly yanking it away and thrusting something new into the listener’s chest. There’s plenty of unexpected melody and noise along the way that helps cement the album as a truly unique experimental rock experience which shouldn’t be missed for those who like their rock to fall a bit (or a lot) outside the norm.
The Get Up Kids – Kicker
Second-wave emo heroes The Get Up Kids are back after an eight-year hiatus and finally seem ready to embrace the sound that made them heroes in the first place. It’s been a long and hard road into adulthood for many of the bands that made their mark on angsty and impressionable teenagers in the 90s and The Get Up Kids haven’t been immune to the growing pains. After their landmark 1999 album Something to Write Home About the band began a slow and sometimes tortuous maturation period that saw them turn away from the up tempo, heart-on-the-sleeve sound of their early output in favor of something more nuanced, mature, and – regrettably – often boring. Nobody can blame the band for distancing themselves from the emo label; particularly in the late 90s it was a scene that burned brightly but faded quickly and the teenage-diary lyricism and adolescent angst so many bands built their base upon withered embarrassingly with even the slightest distance. So, yeah, The Get Up Kids endeavored to become The Get Up Men and who can blame them? Luckily, the Kids are back with a brand-new EP that splits the difference: Kicker embraces the sound of the band’s early years but infuses it with a healthy dose of wink-and-nod adult perspective befitting the kids’ true age.
Of the many assets Kicker possesses, one of the most significant is its brevity. Four tracks of lean guitar rock compose the entirety of the 13-minute runtime. Even if Kicker is meant to be a mere appetizer for a longer full-length, a tight runtime that doesn’t allow for any fat or mid-tempo experimentation is a perfect way for the band to reintroduce themselves after such an extended absence. “Maybe” kicks things off with a pounding drum intro reminiscent of the classic “Ten Minutes” and a sing-along chorus that quickly establishes the band’s back-to-basics intent. Not-so-secret weapon Jim Suptic takes over for the equally sing-along friendly “Better this Way” and the blistering “I’m Sorry,” an urgent anthem of regret that would easily have fit within the band’s Red Letter Day output. Matt Pryor closes out the tracklist with “My Own Reflection,” a song that finally locates the perfect blend of maturity, tunefulness, and gut-punch emotionality the Kids have been striving for ever since Something To Write Home About.
And with that, it’s all over. There’s a small bit of cruelty that such a strong comeback ends so quickly but, among other benefits, the short runtime keeps the replay value sky high. Even if they’ve grown into men, it’s great to have The Get Up Kids back in true form.
Death and The Penguin – The Calving Shuffle
Here’s a thought experiment for you: what if you travelled back in time and introduced The Clash to Nordic Prog, say Leprous? The result would probably be a groovy and cheeky take on rock, all staccato riffs and verve, dashed with the hints of early punk that made The Clash so successful. Perhaps also a smidgen of brit-rock to seal the deal, a smarmy something on the edge of the vocals that communicates the kind of attitude which infected London in the 80’s.
Luckily, you don’t have to just imagine what this sort of weird marriage would sound like; you can simply listen to Death and The Penguin‘s latest single, taken off their upcoming album, Anomie. It goes by the name of “The Calving Shuffle” and it has everything I mentioned above and more. It’s a sort of brazen take on alt rock that does away with grandiosity and exchanges it for a kind of pent up anger and energy. However, even though it has its share of angst, it never falls into mediocre whining or self indulgence.
That’s perhaps because of how tight the instruments are. The drum hits and the bass line work exceptionally well to keep everything moving forward. The guitars handle their staccato rawness with elegance and ease, weaving in and out while keeping a tight hold on their punch. The end result is track which definitely works within plenty of things going over the UK scene right now but embellishes it with its own nervous, in your face vibe. Which is to say, the end result is great. Keep your eyes peeled for more as we near the album release on the 27th of July.