Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Porcupine's technical, impressive rock recalls an earlier time

June 21, 2010

The songs on Porcupine‘s The Trouble With You combine the best parts of the late nineties/early two-thousands punk, math rock and indie rock together in a way that would have made fans of all three genres sit up and take notice. The fuzzed-out guitar riffs give way to mathy runs with a melodic bent before muscling through a chorus or two. These guys know their underground music history, or somehow appropriated an entire time period without knowing about it (which would be pretty amazing). As a result (or magically, if the latter is true), their songwriting espouses the ideas of those genres in that time. That means a lot of things, but one really important thing: there are melodies here, but these songs don’t rely on pop melodies as much as current rock/punk/indie bands do.

That makes the album a difficult sell; pretty much every genre of music has been subsumed into the theory that there should be a memorable hook to every song. Not convinced? The Metal Bastard says the words “the by far best grindcore band in history” and “catchy vocal line” in his review of Nasum’s last album. Even grindcore, which many people wouldn’t even call music, is subject to pop these days.

If you’re into punk and rock that’s more about mood, attitude, aesthetics and instrumentals than singalongs, then Porcupine is your band. You’ll love the technical ability of “Picture Perfect,” the punchy rhythms of “So Far So Good,” the herky-jerky guitarwork of “Cliff Diver” and the rest of the great, interesting moments on this album. If you like pop-punk, you should probably move along, or if you’re really determined, check out “Books,” which has the closest thing to a catchy vocal melody on the album.

But if you don’t appreciate that “Books” is awesome because of the tight interplay between the guitar, bass and drums, you’re missing a lot of what Porcupine is about. I hope that Porcupine finds an audience that will embrace this for what it is and not condemn it for what it isn’t (and for that matter, what I don’t think it was trying to be in the first place).

How did you get indie-pop in my math rock?

February 20, 2009

Math rock is one of those genres that is usually influenced by others.  Right now, a lot of math-rock bands have been pulling influences from post-hardcore and post-rock, and sometimes math-rock  can be indistinguishable from these genres. Well, the San Diego-based trio Fever Sleeves are here to add a little pip in the step of one of the genres that can oftentimes feel way too serious and complex to the average listener. Soft Pipes, Play On is a misleading title for one heck of a ripping album.

The instrumentals seep in, post-rock style, on the opener “Vampyroteuthis,” and suggest something that has been done before. But that lasts for all of 54 seconds or so, until the instrumentals rip open like a wildfire. The vocalist of the Fever Sleeves then comes in and it’s not that post-hardcore style that so often works in math rock, it’s an infectious indie-pop one. That’s the trick to a l0t of the Fever Sleeves songs: they work in the medium of indie-pop.

This may be one of the more accessible math-rock albums I’ve ever heard. It never drags. All of the songs average at about 3 mintues each, which is shocking compared to the usual instrumental freakouts that last upward of five minutes.   The track “Cusack”  comes as such a suprise with instrumentals that play off of very melodic vocals, and vice versa. The song could easily be a pop-fest, but the Fever Sleeve’s instrumentals take it to complex and full musical territories that indie-pop bands simply couldn’t pull off. A thrilling, refreshing listen, Soft Pipes, Play On shows that Fever Sleeves seems to be doing something that may have seemed too incredibly obvious to other bands, and doing it with fervor.

Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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