Killer or Filler?
Yes, punk is doing just fine in North Texas. Though the sound lives mainly at 1919 Hemphill (and the occasional house show), it’s driven by quite a few bands that can easily cross over into what constitutes the mainstream in Fort Worth (i.e., Lola’s Saloon and The Grotto, primarily).
But punk still isn’t sexy. Maybe it was for a couple of years back in the ’70s and ’80s in New York City, but, now as always, it’s mostly about the music. Not shots and beers and more shots and beers. Not dancing. Not looking good and looking for other good-lookers. Just music, and there’s little chance you can listen to any one of the following recordings and not think about anything other than guitars, basses, and drums, melodies and rhythms.
And, OK, maybe a little politics. –– Anthony Mariani
For every Slayer, Lyle Lovett, or Rakim, there are a zillion copycats who are so doctrinaire about their chosen genre’s stylistic tenets that saying something new or interesting seems anathema. If you had to choose, you’d probably say Litigators are straight-up hardcore punk, but based on the Fort Worth quartet’s new four-song demo, laid down at Civil Recording in Denton with producer Michael Briggs, there’s a lot more going on than just breakneck beats, barre chords, and angry shouting.
For one thing, there’s a little arena-rock sensibility at play. The EP’s first few chugging guitar notes could be mistaken for the blues-inflected handiwork of, say, The Frisky Disco or The Longshots, and the third track, “Blotches,” lurches forward like a partially demolished tank, Matt Gibbons’ guitar buzzing, chiming, and squealing over drummer Phil Kraul and bassist Corey Duran’s crackling-lightning rhythm.
For another, vocalist John Shults isn’t content just to slink into the sonic background and scream his head off. Like a mix of Craig Finn and Greg Ginn, he occasionally sing-talks nervously, his masculine voice strong but probing. On “Rebreather,” he follows the song’s chordal changes by alternating between contemplative and outspoken, passive and aggressive. On “Short List,” he circles the locomotive beats –– arriving sometimes behind them, sometimes in front of them –– but he never loses his way.
Shults also yells a lot, of course, and in the context of Litigators’ bruising, loud-as-hell bombast, he functions mostly as another instrument. You may not know what the hell he’s saying, but you can feel that he believes it. And that’s probably as punk-rock as you can get. –– A.M.
Eat Avery’s Bones’ We Have No Rhythm
Remember four years ago when you were all mad because the notoriously polarizing Dallas music blog We Shot JR ignored your band (or if the anonymous writers mentioned you at all, they totally shat on you) in favor of some weird outfit that played only in Denton, at 1919 Hemphill, or at The Chat Room? Well, that band was probably Eat Avery’s Bones, and they’re probably a million times more interesting than anything you could have dreamed up.
Produced in Fort Worth by Britt Robisheaux (War Party, Siberian Traps, Year of the Bear), the Denton quintet’s fourth record, We Have No Rhythm, is just as fast and fascinating as you’d expect, eight tracks smearing your ears with a spastic blend of anxious, boss-battle guitar curlicues, urgent hardcore rhythms, dopey synths, and a Kaufmanesque sense of humor that will probably make you feel stupid in a totally enjoyable way. Songs like “ProBoner,” “Delectable Spreadables,” and “Titty Fugue” have a sort of Trey Parker/Matt Stone-fart-joke sensibility on the surface, but packed into each brief tune is incredible depth and sarcasm. Yep, even when the lyrics are “I wanna take / A dump on your chest.”
You could waste a couple-a hours contemplating the cosmos while trying to digest the new Midlake album, or you could listen to this record over and over and over until you brain explodes. Either way, We Have No Rhythm is probably the most important 12 minutes of your year. –– Steve Steward
The Vatican Press’ The Vatican Press
The Vatican Press prefers the softer, more sensitive vein of punk rock. Frontman Eddie Hennessey and company are not trying to tell the powers that be to eff off. They just want to be your friend and/or commiserate with you over loves lost or never attained. After five years of infrequent gigging around North Texas, the quartet recently released its first, eponymous EP. The five tracks are chock full of light, poppy, well-crafted tunes that even Grandma would approve of. If, y’know, Grandma was into moshing.
“Sunshine Girl” opens with an expansive, laid-back guitar prelude while drummer Jared Ahmed keeps the mood relaxed. A brief pause precedes a barrage of frenzied, melodically driven guitar lines and Ahmed’s four-on-the-floor rampage, with bassist Adam Rust thumping and pounding along. The vocals are masterful. Hennessey’s confident, nasal delivery is wonderfully punctuated by vocal jabs provided by Rust.
“Choice or Fate” continues the EP’s theme of unrequited love with mellow, understated vocals as guitarist Duane Jenquin saturates the tune with thick, distorted harmonies. “Next to Me” shows the band’s un-punk-like knack for crafting songs with multiple contrasting sections that blend well.
The Vatican Press offers an adrenaline-soaked sound with a youthful vigor that harks back to the good ol’ days of heartache and emptiness. –– Edward Brown