Friday, December 31, 2010

Cheers, Mate! - Owl EP

This is probably the best album you've never heard by a band you'll probably never see live. Coming out of Ukraine it's Cheers, Mate! with their debut ep called the Owl EP. It is filled to overflowing with conflicting moments happening at the same time. Throughout this all too short album there is beauty is jammed up against ugliness and total devastation rubbing shoulders with moments of epic beauty.

This is most definitely screamo music. The emotional style of the clean singing and the piano add heaping doses of emotion to what would normally be just hardcore or perhaps post-hardcore rage. The constant shifting between beauty and aggression, not to mention when they manage to coexist, turns the sheer aggression hardcore punk is known for on its head allowing for much more textured music. If you don't like multiple vocalists with multiple styles both clean and not turn away now. If you like heavy guitars that quickly transform into melodic moments then this is probably for you.

Throughout this whole album the singers are constantly trading off. It's hard to understand without hearing it how powerful it is to go from a beautiful clean melody straight into a tortured scream on a dime. The only thing more powerful is when the one vocalist echoes the other. As often as the screamer is howling alone a lot of the time the screaming is relegated to backing vocals stretching out what the clean singer started.
The Intro starts off with a drum counting off four beats and we're off to the races. The guitars are already at full blast riffing away and in the background you can hear a piano tinkling. The screaming comes in towards the end and is aggressive and noisy but it never becomes unintelligible. 

The first song, And Nobody Wants To Stop has two breakdowns in it, surprise surprise. The interesting thing is that the second breakdown is lead back up by the piano and some clean singing. The Devil Drives Lada will surprise you because there is actually a catchy melody in the clean singing. That melody is only accented when the scream takes over and the piano drops out. There is just enough repetition to almost make it stick in your head but not so that it becomes overplayed. 

Your Eyes Turn To Widescreen is the fourth song and the most straight up screamo song on here. Right out of the gate there is a raging riff and a high pitch scream going at full tilt. The piano doesn't make an appearance until after the first breakdown at which point it replaces the guitar and a spoken voice comes in with just a tinge of aggression. The piano vanishes as quickly as it came and doesn't show up again till halfway through when everything goes completely chaotic. The instruments take over and wreak havoc.
The middle of this fourth song is the most interesting part on an album full of fascinating riffs and sections. The guitars rage along like they usually do until out of nowhere comes a piano. Instead of creating a melody and forcing a progression the piano bangs out unresolved chords that sound awkward yet completely awesome. Everything calms down suddenly and the clean voice emerges leading the melody with the screaming in the background eventually taking over.

The guitar usually stays in over-driven thrashy mode and the riffs are always tasty and constantly changing with more than their fair share of melody. The use of piano helps with shoving melody into places where there would normally only be brutality. The use of multiple singing styles really helps to make this music unique. There is melodious clean singing, just a little bit of speaking and both high pitched and guttural screams.

There are few hooks on this album so there aren't really any bits that get stuck in your head. Instead of walking away with bits of these songs stuck in my head I walk away astounded at the brutality and emotional content of this music. This is music coming straight from the musicians hearts aimed straight at your guts.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Cattle Drums - The Boy Kisser Sessions

The best description I've heard of this album is that it sounds like if At The Drive In if they played punk-pop instead of post-hardcore. The debut ep by Cattle Drums The Boy Kisser Session is filled to the brim with nonsensically obscure poetic lyrics, constantly changing songs and guitars that go from raging to melodic and back on a dime.

It's absolutely impossible for me to choose a favourite song because they all show a different side of the band and are almost all uniformly awesome. New Furniture And Wigs starts out with just a riff and drums that grab you and make you pay attention while the last third of Who Punched Pat Moore's Face has obscure lyrics over top of shifting guitars that focus on alternating between aggression and melody. Borvg The Nag kicks your ass for barely two minutes and is followed by Two Pigeons an acoustic song with both shouting and a xylophone. There's a video of the band on you tube doing Two Pigeons on someone's back step that is as close to a literal definition of awesome as I've seen.

Most of the time I have no idea what the lead singer is going on about. But that is most certainly not a bad thing. He is constantly shouting nonsensical things like “I got a bone to pick with you bout Stacy's bloodline, it's cutting out, what's that about, what's that about” which only add to the energy being created by the band behind him. He creates such a sense of urgency that it doesn't matter we have no idea what he's singing about.
The only bad song comes exactly in the middle and the only reason it's bad is because it's so slow. The lead singers shouting loses its urgency and comes close to being a whine. Usually the choruses come out of nowhere, smack you in the face and spin you around but on Sluts And Coconuts you can see it coming a mile away.

Musically speaking this album is fairly standard. There are bits that are very punk pop with lots of energy that make you want to jump up and down while singing along at the top of your lungs. Other parts make you want to start a pit and smash everything and then there are also parts of incredible beauty. The combination of these three disparate parts and the ease with which they shift between them is one of the things that makes this album so interesting. The ability to do any one of those things with any skill would be enough for a great album. The ability to do all three and combine them into a coherent piece is one of the things that really grabs me.

Starting off with nothing but a drum beat then a simple bluesy riff New Furniture And Wigs is bound to grab your attention. After about a half minute the piece escalates with an all over the place melody being chased by the guitar that continues 'til the guitar drops out the and the lead singer starts shouting. Eventually the guitars come back in and the song ends as a post-hardcore rager that never really forgets the melody.

If you're not into energetic, emotional and interesting music that refuses to give up or reveal its secrets then you won't like this. But if music with cryptic lyrics, songs with unorthodox structures that are written with obvious care for the art form then hopefully you'll find this as addictive as I do. Easily one of the top 5 ep's of 2010, I await new material with bated breath.