WHO: San Francisco, CA female-fronted hardcore. Recently had a great article/interview with them printed in Maximum Rock 'N Roll, which I recommend reading. This is their debut album, following an excellent 7" EP entitled Eyeless. They've been touring like mad, and have been receiving a great deal of attention for both their recorded output and their live shows. I have high hopes going into this one.
1) Don't Start (0:57)
First off, I think it's hilarious that the song that starts this album is called "Don't Start." They kind of contradict themselves a bit here though, because what we have here is a damn fine opener. The production is leaps and bounds above that on Eyeless- everything sounds clear without being too polished, and Meaghan's vocals now cut through loud and clear. It's what you would expect from this band- pummeling, fast hardcore, except now it's more or less in HD. RIFF.
2) Fuming (0:58)
The first quarter of this song is spent flying through a catalog of hardcore song-beginnings: the blastbeat, the 1-2 beat followed by the guitar break, etc. But then the blastbeat comes back for the verse, if you will, before managing to flip on a dime to some slower parts. Then- fuck- it all drops out to bass and drums and I get so excited that I want to jump out of my second story window. The song is about riding bikes and having to deal with petulant car-drivers- never before have you ever heard anyone scream the word "muffler" with such anger. RIFF.
3) Get Back (1:01)
Out of nowhere, Punch reveal an intensely melodic side of themselves that I had no idea existed. Still, it's no less vicious. Their ability to completely stop on a dime to switch sections is extremely impressive, and I'm all about songs that feature some sort of bass break (although I believe Paint It Black are the current kings of this art.). Chalk up another RIFF.
4) Ol'factory (0:50)
If anybody else can point out another song that has been written about deoderant, that explodes into a blast-beat section that rattles off marketing data, I'll buy you lunch. RIFF.
5) Right Of Way (0:50)
Another song about bikes! This time taking on a far more sarcastic tone. I'm really starting to appreciate Punch's sense of humor, as it is. 5 songs in, I'm also really into their song structures. They manage to take several basic elements of hardcore and put them next to each other while still leaving things completely unpredictable. RIFF.
6) If Not Me (0:59)
Well, it had to happen sometime, and it happened here: the first song on this album that did not completely blow me away. I don't know how the band regards this song, but its two lines of lyrics and way more standard arrangement make me think this song may have been written either really early on or late in the writing process for this album. Basically, it just lacks the pizzazz of the first five songs, which set the bar VERY high. FLUB.
7) Been Here Before (1:03)
I avoided making this comparison as long as I possibly could, but this song really does sound kind of like a Ceremony song in terms of dynamics. It follows the Bay Area band's early formula of blasting intro-huge slowdown-pounding final riffs almost to a tee. Luckily, I do like Ceremony quite a bit. Plus, the total ambiguity in Meaghan's final lyric makes the ending that much more appropriate- the song just freezes, suspending itself until it's final crash. RIFF.
8) We're Not In This Together (1:47)
It's the longest song on the album so far, and it's the first that seems to explicitly deal with relationships. Much like a relationship dissolving, several emotions seem to be present here. The faster part is pure anger, while the slowdown that leads to the end of the song just seems like a huge mix of sadness/desperation/disappointment. It's a little painful to listen to, honestly, but in that grit-your-teeth good sort of painful. RIFF.
9) The Bad Times (1:47)
Well, this is kind of an odd choice. Punch goes the instrumental route, speeding up a breakdown-ish riff until it spirals out into noise and a fadeout. Fun, but ultimately inessential. FLUB.
10) Make The Good Times That Much Better (1:36)
Oh OK, now it makes sense. It's like the fadeout on Dillinger Four's Vs. God, where you flip the record and it all fades back in. This song is fucking anthemic, by the way. That's the only way I can even describe it. It falls in the more melodic camp of their songs, and basically incapsulates everything that was great about the first half of the album into one song. RIFF.
11) If You Can't Now, You Never Could (0:58)
11 songs in, I'm beginning to run out of ways to describe Punch's music. Props to them for cramming a breakdown and a blastbeat into about a 5 second period though. Another testament to their songwriting skills, but you could probably take this song off of the tracklist and still have an amazing album. Punch has proved to me that their FLUBS aren't because a song is bad- it's because they don't reach the dizzying heights of the songs surrounding them.
12) Break A Leg (1:36)
Another run-through through a bunch of hardcore stylistic stand-bys ends in the most pulverizing breakdown on the album so far. Ultimately, that's what saves this song from blending in with the rest of the album. RIFF.
13) Rewrite (1:12)
The second half of this album has ended up being a LOT heavier than the first, with more detours into slower tempos. Although, there are times where I wish they would just commit to a part and ride it out a bit more until the song's end. Ultimately though, RIFF.
14) Mending Is Better Than Ending (1:24)
The intro to this one had me thinking I would have to bust out the time-honored My War comparison that gets thrown around whenever a hardcore band slows down, but it quickly begins flying. The guitar parts get a little insane near the end, placing this one solidly in the RIFF column.
15) Not So Posi After All (1:07)
Oh fuck, huge singalong part near the end of this one- maybe a sly nod to posi-hardcore style in a song titled "Not So Posi After All"? You sly devils. RIFF.
16) Feminists, Don't Have A Cow (2:20)
On the longest song the album sports, it's more about the slow sections that bookend the absolutely furious middle. I could be completely off base here, but the lyrics seem to be about encouraging vegan action among the feminist community, specifically regarding cows. The sentiment is nice, but the dork in me can only think about how this song should probably have been in the middle of the album or something like that. It's an album where the personal is laid so bare, so it just seems a little odd to close on this note. Oh well, that doesn't take away from the quality of the song. RIFF.
TOTAL: 13 RIFFS vs. 3 FLUBS
SCORE: (13/16) x 100% = 81.25%
Seriously, one of the best hardcore albums I've heard this year. I'd be surprised if this didn't end up in my top albums of the year list at this point, after I've listened to it a bunch more times.