In the most recent Heavy Blog playlist swap, Simon and I traded off on some pretty awesome bands, with one group in particular shining above the rest for me: Head Wound City, a noise supergroup containing members associated with bands like The Locust, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Retox, The Blood Brothers, and Cold Cave, who’s debut A New Wave of Violence came out earlier this May. I, admittedly, described the band as “noisy hardcore played by indie rock musicians,” which is a bit of a misnomer. While Nick Zinner (drummer of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs) is indeed a part of HWC, the band is nothing short of intense hardcore, unafraid to follow their own sense of musicianship in a scene full of noisy rock bands.
I articulate: the way this group plays their music is a touch out of sync with the rest of the hardcore/noise rock scene today. While a band like The Dillinger Escape Plan will basically lunge at your throat from the song’s beginning, Head Wound City is a bit more reserved in its attack, choosing instead to stalk for a bit before going in for the kill. Even when they do pounce, HWC doesn’t always feel the need to turn the amps to 11. They have some self-control, sometimes using simple spoken word passages and basic yelling instead of the full-on hardcore scream. It’s as if there’s more of an influence from alternative rock than most other bands in this scene would admit to. And, considering the strong attack of frontman/singer Justin Pearson’s other projects, this divide is much more obvious.
Take Pearson’s band Retox, and their fantastic 2015 release Beneath California as a good example, where tracks like “We Know Who’s The Prick” and “Let’s Not Keep In Touch” start with tons of feedback and riffs that are liable to start riots right out of the gates and generally filled with a cool amount of energy. It’s not that Head Wound City doesn’t have energy or doesn’t play noise rock, but their approach to the genre just feels completely different. In a way, it’s lighter. Airier. The production feels like the highs are accentuated much more than the lows or the mids. Musically, it includes a decent amount of electronic elements also, with some well-placed buzzy synths providing a cool relief and a nice beat to the album.
To be clear: this approach really isn’t bad; in fact, it’s really cool. The moments of waiting tension make A New Wave of Violence so distinctive and fun that it warrants multiple listens. Of course there are times of wildness; the record overall has some insane moments of punk fury (though “Palace of Love and Hate” and “Closed Casket” are the most overtly angry).
So, if you want some incredibly well-written (and performed) hardcore, I highly, highly suggest Head Wound City and A New Wave of Violence.