Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Caterpillar Tracks and Arms Exploding rock out on a rare split 7-inch

February 18, 2010

CaterpillarTracksArmsExplodingPhratry Records‘ release of split 7″ albums is a show of faith in the importance of rock and roll. Seven-inchers are pretty much most inefficient mode of releasing music there is: two songs on two sides of vinyl.  The rare band and label that still puts money into pressing 7″ believes not only in the particular band being pressed, but in the importance that a single song can have. Is releasing one song by two bands each important? Most say no. Phratry Records says, “Eff yeah!”

So, for the next three days, we’ll be featuring the three latest Phratry records releases, which are all 7″ vinyl. This first one is a Caterpillar Tracks/Arms Exploding split, with the A side being CT’s “It’s a W.I.N. for the Home Team” and the B side being Arms Exploding’s “Of Luxury & Branding.”

Caterpillar Tracks’ post-punk offering here is cemented by a pounding, staccato rhythm that becomes a head-bobbing groove after the ears get accustomed to it (and there’s plenty of time to normalize it, as the rhythm forms the basis for the entire song). The guitars squiggle, squirm and leap over it, making dissonant melodies and odd rhythms over the insistent thrum from the rhythm section. The vocals are a clear, undistorted yell; there’s no rasp, nor is there any hysteria in the screaming. The vocalist is passionate, but he doesn’t portray it by getting crazy. This song is relatively short, unfortunately, but it makes a big impression. I loved “It’s a W.I.N. for the Home Team,” as it reminded me of what Deep Elm Records’ Red Animal War and what Brand New could have been like if they had they taken a slightly harder route out of Deja Entendu.

Arms Exploding’s track is much less contained than Caterpillar Tracks’ tune. The thrashing punk of “Of Luxury & Branding” features cymbal-heavy drum work, shrieking guitars, wild yelling, full-out screaming, slashing rhythms, and lots of distortion. Where Caterpillar Tracks’ sound was contained and insistent, Arms Exploding is wild, frenetic and barely controlled. Arms Exploding seems the type of band that would end their sets with blood on the floor and equipment broken.

There is some restraint leveled in “Of Luxury & Branding,” as a stripped-back groove section gives a momentary respite from chaos. The song also ends on a loop of a off-kilter piano line, which was an unexpected move from such a wild and frantic piece. But the majority of this track is old-school punk rock: abrasive, unusual, unexpected, and challenging to the status quo.

Both of these tracks were worth the vinyl. My personal aesthetic draws me to Caterpillar Tracks over Arms Exploding, but the quality of both tracks ensures that there kids out there saying the same thing about Arms Exploding. Whether you get the seven-inch or download it digitally (lame), you should invest some cash in this release. It’s not just two great songs; it’s show of solidarity with Phratry Records’ statement that red vinyl is worth it.

Caterpillar Tracks-Scrape The Summer EP

February 1, 2008

Phratry Records

Indie rock that “plays” the punk “card” and leaves much to be desired.

Punk is a word that people love to use when describing all types of music, even if the described music is not exactly in the punk genre. One can blame punk on its modest beginnings. Originally an outlet for the angry young born into the working class to express their blood, piss and vomit in musical form, punk has become a buzzword. Young rage turned into simple, fast chord progressions, leaving punk to inevitably evolve into a much more poppy sound.

Now Caterpillar Tracks claims a punk-oriented sound, but are these 30-something year-olds up to the task of capturing the raw, angry edge of working class youth? Caterpillar Tracks’ new EP Scrape The Summer actually feels more like a punkish- grunge. All of the songs, save for the last track, feel very similar in nature and lack variation. The last track “Midnight at the Taser Ground” feels like a complete phase shift with its drawn-out dark ambient soundscapes. “Midnight…” is almost long-winded in comparison to its high-energy, three-minute brethren.

As for the nature of the lyrics, nothing in them makes one angry or makes Caterpillar Tracks leaders of some revolution, but they try. On “It’s Scientific, G*dd*mn,” Shane Johnson yells “you’re left to your devices, you’re left to your detail.” Such words leave the listener spending so much time trying to figure out the meaning that all possible energy and intensity is lost. The fact that guitar solos exist on the album also detracts from the experience that is punk rock. It’s safe to say Scrape the Summer is more akin to alternative/grunge rock than socio-politically conscious punk.

– Tim Wallen

Stephen Carradini and Lisa Whealy write reviews of instrumental, folk, and singer/songwriter music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.

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