As you’ve likely heard, Couch Slut is back with another chapter of what really only Couch Slut can deliver. So you might expect that Take A Chance On Rock ‘n’ Roll is every bit the knock-down-drag-out of prior entries. You’d be right. It’s… difficult. Wild-eyed tales of abuse are again presented in a stark, plain-as-day type of horror, where the brief escapes from vocalist Megan Ozstritis’ cathartic wails will leave you looking over your shoulder as anxiety-laced pangs of noise, incessantly clobbering rhythms, and cock-eyed guitar lines persistently scratch away, eroding your resistance to their infectious appeal. The blend of catharsis and disturbing intrigue remain uncomfortable and simultaneously agreeable, and this dichotomy hones the record’s edge. Like, no matter how familiar it becomes, every spin is undeniably raw and difficult. As weird as it sounds, this Couch Slut effort is …fun… but nonetheless meticulously racking.

Straight up, TACORnR fucking rocks (it’s also fun to type). “The Mouthwash Years” immediately hits with their signature reckless swagger and before you know it, you’re swept up in the garage punk locomotion of “Carousel of Progress” a track that lends a tinfoil chewing zap to the opening trio covering your noise rock essentials (this opening sequence is seriously the shit). Herein lies TACORnR’s game changer. Where Contempt relied more heavily on tension and atmosphere building, TACORnR is relatively temperamental, pouncing eardrums from a variety of angles, dragging listeners through shady alleyways of meandering leads riddled with abrupt bouts of noise – the production is uncomfortably immersive and abrasive. More, the group is impressively nimble here, delving into some blackened bits (oddly reminescent of Yellow Eyes) more frequently, and there are also a few more passages that harken to stripped-down, asskicking hardcore. Still, the staples get it right, and nobody else comes close. “All The Way Down” dances on the fringe of melody before devolving into a nightmarish spiral of feedback and riffs that get hammered to pieces – it’s already among my favorite tracks of the year. It’s quite the ride for its brief two-and-a-half minutes (if you aren’t absolutely losing your shit at the 1:30 mark, shame on you), but more importantly, it hints at the quickness and range found on this outing.

Considering the thrifty economy at which these dudes chew up and spit out sick riffs, drummer Theo Nobel has become a sort of regulator, dialing back and cutting loose to add to each segment’s character while maximizing dynamic impact. Similarly, bassist Kevin Hall is something of a pace-setter, pushing and pulling each track along as the guitars get fucking wrenched, busily shading in details and peeling off rhythms (dig the counterpart to that mean-ass riff in “All The Way Down,” the unraveling threads that converge into a potent slog toward the close of “The Stupid Man,” or those squeal hiccups in “Topless and Bottomless”). This being said, the return of Amy Mills on guitars/horns adds dimension and depth, escalating the anxious vibes that lather up in the discord of guitars with fellow guitarist Kevin Wunderlich. By the time you’re amidst the noir-tinged horn section of “I’m 14,” you’ll be left wondering what happened to 80% of the album. The sequencing is utterly dreamlike, and though each agonizing scream and needling percussive stint can feel like a lifetime, it remains invigorating, dare I say encouraging. TACORnR makes efficient use of its time, and honestly, it kind of has to, and this disorienting allure parallels the record’s “How the fuck did we end up here?” themes.

Lyrically, it’s as fucked, if not even more so than previous entries. Closer “Someplace Cheap” is a first-hand account of sexual assault that goes beyond unsettling. There’s a Sonic Youth-gone-sludge type meandering to the piece, where the frank, spoken-word approach lends a realness that may be too much for some listeners. It’s fucking harrowing and downright difficult to listen to, the details of which are certain to make your skin crawl. Similarly, “I’m 14” takes on another uncomfortable narrative before it’s washed away by the creepy-yet-bizarrely-comforting wave of noir jazz with the horns, where you’re almost left feeling guilty at how beautiful it sounds in contrast with the lyrical themes. On the other hand, “In A Pig’s Eye” connects with lyrics that are cloudier but nonetheless upsetting, Ozstritis’ unhinged shrieks carrying more of the lyrics’ excruciating weight. Everything is as dreadful and personal as ever, but they feel better-suited and more carefully arranged this time. The symbiosis between lyrics and instruments has never been quite this good, and it makes for more memorable moments.

Those who’ve been put off by previous material won’t find this much easier outside of the denser, more compact arrangements. It’s no less confrontational or cathartic, but certainly more palatable. And it’s not that Couch Slut ever lacked a hook to deliver their rawness, but with TACORnR, they embrace a strange kind of grit that complements their streetwise style of noise rock, making it more flexible, more intriguing. The band’s intersections of agony, rage, confusion, and anxiety are now underscored by a blood-pumping, near-possessed power which, intentional or not, makes it a little easier to press play as it wraps up. Couch Slut takes advantage of some expert-level feel and timing at every turn, and ushers these in with ever the slightest notion of urgency. If you whiffed on the last two Couch Slut albums, TACORnR is as good a place as any to start. Nothing else this year is likely to achieve this level of intensity, it’s just not happening. For that reason alone it’ll get tons of well-deserved attention, but in combo with their leaner and stronger songwriting, it’ll end up a favorite for many.

Take A Chance On Rock ‘n’ Roll is available right now via Gilead Media.

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