Araby, Your Wate And Fate (Curve Of The Earth)

Araby - Your Wate And Fate Araby
Your Wate And Fate
Curve Of The Earth
By: Eric Greenwood

In the fifteen months since I happened to catch Araby opening a show in its hometown of Boston, Massachusetts, its self-released, three-song demo has rarely left my rotation. The quartet's haunting and complex music is nothing short of stunning, but, at first, the dueling vocalists' high-end falsettos put me off. At the same time, I was unable to stop listening. Something latent just kept pulling me back to those three songs. Eventually, the vocal melodies won me over to the point where I couldn't imagine the music without them, and now I am a converted and devoted spreader of the good word.

Your Wate And Fate is Araby's debut full-length, which is mind-boggling considering how accomplished the music is and the fact that the band has only been around for two years. Araby's intricate guitar interplay is spliced with jazzy arrangements and a charged undercurrent of post-punk bass and drums. All of the songs are dark and sprawling and colored with cryptic lyrics that are delivered with Byrds-esque vocal harmonies. Guitarist Cliff Rawson's voice is the more dominant of the two, and his range is astounding. He has such a pure and clear tenor, and it soars above the complicated riffage seemingly effortlessly.

Araby wears its influences on its sleeve. Everything from Polvo to The Beatles to Blonde Redhead to Simon And Garfunkel to Fugazi is easily discerned, yet none of it really pigeonholes the band or pins it down. Araby's talent is so obvious and so overwhelming that only a lazy listener would write the band off as imitators. Your Wate And Fate begins with a breathtakingly jubilant riff. "This Is How" is so busy that it takes your brain a few seconds to comprehend all that is happening, but it never sounds cluttered or forced. Every note is perfectly planned. The vocals surge with the guitars, only to break away dramatically at points of tension and then liltingly lead you back into the chorus. It'll make the tiny hairs on your neck bolt upright. I cannot stress enough how good it is.

"Everything I Say You Are" flashes its Polvo badge several times, but Polvo never had harmonies- much less ones this remotely captivating. The vocal melodies are as complicated and intricate as the guitar work itself, which is just unthinkable. It's easy to try to dismiss Araby's vocal stylings as fey or emasculating, but the music rocks hard enough to counterbalance any feelings of male inadequacy one might have. Chances are, if you have a mullet, you wouldn't appreciate Araby, anyway, nor would you, for that matter, be reading this now. The type of pretentiousness inherent to Araby's enigmatic schtick is easily overlooked when the songwriting is this absurdly good.

Araby's fearlessness is also to be admired. The alluring "Truth To Tell" is both eerie and sublime. It oozes with a dark sexual confidence just like Jeff Buckley once did, but you could forgive him because he pulled it off so well. It's amazing what pretty boy good looks and a honey-coated throat will excuse. Araby is a little too weird to be quite so suave, but the musical daring is there. Rawson's playful half-whisper ("your most favorite toy…how'd you pay for it?") would be embarrassing coming out of anyone else's mouth, but he goes for it with gusto and a ridiculously gorgeous voice that hits notes that bands like Dream Theater would sell their families into slavery for.

The way the vocals entwine on "Ringside" is jaw dropping. The stilted, repetitive guitar riff that opens the song is steamrolled by a rollicking bass line reminiscent of something The Smiths might have done. Rawson's two masters degrees in jazz guitar from Berklee make sense of how such seamless arrangements flow so naturally. The song is vibrant and vital, alternating between extreme lows and highs both musically and vocally. The epic "Fake It/Crave It" benefits greatly from the leap in sound quality of the demo compared to the full-length. A bit of musical re-working adds to the after-bite as well. The guitars swell into Led Zeppelin-style histrionics but never cross the line into masturbatory self-indulgence. And, once again, the vocals will just blow your mind.

The amount of potential that Araby demonstrates on this debut cannot be overstated. From the musicianship to the songwriting right down to the presentation of the artwork, Araby stakes its claim on an extremely bright future. This is a band that will create amazing things, if given the chance to explore its instincts. All I can do is to urge you to discover it for yourself.

*We realize this album is not readily available in stores yet, so the following links may be helpful:
Garment District

Guyana Punch Line, Direkt Aktion (Prank)

Guyana Punch Line - Direkt Aktion Guyana Punch Line
Direkt Aktion
By: Eric Greenwood

As evidence of the fact that punk is a meaningless term, take the gulf that separates a band like Guyana Punch Line from, say, any emo band you can think of and try to reconcile any semblance of commonality under the punk umbrella. It can't be done unless you zoom out far enough to argue that, well, it all uses guitars; therefore, it must be similar.

Much truer to the punk ethos set forth by England's socio-political cadre (Crass, Rudimentari Peni) and even its cartoonish forbearers (Sex Pistols) than any contemporary hardcore act, Guyana Punch Line exudes its revolutionist bent with such fury and rage that you will never misconstrue its motivations or intentions. And it makes Refused sound like your mom's punk rock to boot.

Direkt Aktion is this South Carolina quartet's third full-length, and it is even more violently brutal than its predecessors, if that's even possible. The formula hasn't really changed much, but the execution has been finely tuned. The band makes a mockery of the overused loud/soft dynamic, utilizing such extremes on both ends that it practically reinvents the idea. When bands are this brutal, musically, they often walk a fine line, bordering the realm of caricature and silliness (all black metal comes to mind), but Guyana Punch Line always manages to remain grounded by never taking itself too seriously.

Just listening to the music might lead one to believe that Guyana Punch Line is a one-trick pony because the music is only one sampling of the band's complicated bag of tricks. Harshness alone is no longer shocking; nor is precision. To experience Guyana Punch Line fully takes some effort. Lead singer Chris Bickel's lyrics and illustrations could stand on their own as some sort of terror shock zine, but when taken in context with the music they make listening to Guyana Punch Line a vital experience.

That is not to downplay the music at all. Guyana Punch Line's battery of riffs and explosive dynamics rival those of the any of the finest hardcore bands of the past fifteen years. Bickel barks his lyrics ruthlessly and furiously- like his life depends upon it. On "Not Right" the band juxtaposes a panicked onslaught of blistering hardcore with a nursery rhyme melody. Well, melody might be too strong of a word, as Guyana Punch Line rarely ventures down that road, but the rhythm changes in such a way to suggest something tangibly familiar and childlike.

With thirteen songs totaling a mere nineteen minutes, Guyana Punch Line never allows for complacency. The goal is to get in, do as much damage as possible, and get out. On "Obligatory Naïve Anti-Sellout Song" Bickel rages that "the sound of hardcore gets sold out a little more/bands getting signed on the sound of our scene/playing politics while moving units for the machine." You'd be hard-pressed to understand a single word without the booklet (and even with it you're often still scratching your head), but the sentiment is certainly not misconstrued. And then on "Null Transmission" Bickel shrieks "trees are killed so poets can write odes to trees/sometimes I can't tell if it's raining gold or if the world is pissing all over me" to show that his sense of humor comes with an ironic punch.

Guyana Punch Line is the closest thing to performance art the hardcore world has ever seen. A winking tirade of caustic humor, bleeding heart politics, and calculated hardcore, Direkt Aktion pummels the brain as much as it makes it think.

The Life And Times, Flat End Of The Earth Ep (54 or 40 or Fight!)

The Life And Times - Flat End Of The Earth Ep The Life And Times
Flat End Of The Earth Ep
54 or 40 or Fight!
By: Eric Greenwood

Shiner's sudden, self-inflicted demise at the start of this year confused its loyal fanbase to no end. Why would a band at the height of its powers just willingly let it all die? For the band to realize its limitations and quit before things turned ugly demands respect. Thus, Shiner's legacy is guaranteed in the underground lexicon, unless its members should cave in to temptation and put together some sort of post-breakup-things-didn't-work-out-with-the-new-bands reunion tour, but with The Life And Times, Shiner guitarist/vocalist Allen Epley has absolutely no need to look back.

During Shiner's decade-long trajectory, Epley infused his songwriting with difficult time signatures and heavy, low-end riffs. The focus was on the technical precision of the musicianship as much as it was the music itself. Much of Shiner's appeal was in the fact that it could make such complicated music sound so damn catchy and look so damn easy. In The Life And Times, Epley tones down the crunch of guitars and streamlines his songwriting, focusing more on the darker aspects of his unique tonal palette. The songs are more expansive and melodic, allowing Epley to showcase his staggering lyrical ability.

The resulting six-song EP, recorded this past spring at Dave Barbe's (Sugar) studio in Atlanta, Georgia, makes a confident statement. There's a lot of weight on Epley's shoulders not only to outdo himself but also to justify the break-up of Shiner, a band that had a relatively small but fierce following, whose influence far outreaches its record sales. There's no pleasing everyone, of course, but The Flat End Of The Earth should silence any reasonable naysayers doubting Epley's decision to move on. These six songs are full of sprawling riffs, explosive, albeit, slower changes, and instantly memorable hooks.

Compared to the rest of the EP, "A Raison In The Sun" is strangely out of place, especially as an opener. Granted, it's the most aggressive rocker of the bunch with its slightly distorted vocals and jagged guitar line, but it lacks the textural breadth of sound that The Life And Times parlays so well on the other five songs. Within seconds of "Houdini" Epley has made his case. It begins with a beautifully recessive guitar line that the bass and drums join in a booming crescendo. When it reverts back to the softer dynamic, Epley's vocals take it to the next level. Epley has mastered the art of making his naturally gruff voice sound sweetly ethereal, and it floats above the den of guitars with such delicacy and ease that it sounds like another instrument.

The band hits its stride on the menacing yet gorgeous "High Scores", wherein Epley's voice rises above the cathartic throng of sweeping noise with masterful control. The changes glide into each other so effortlessly that you almost forget how hard it actually rocks. Epley is rounded out by ex-Someday I guitarist John Meredith on bass and drummer Mike Meyers of The String And Return. The musical weight is not as colossal as Shiner's, but the trio has already created a staggeringly powerful dynamic that will likely cast a wider net than did Shiner's often-tricky showmanship.

Despite the obvious focus on melody, the most distinct change in Epley's songwriting is his fascination with delicacy and the threat (as opposed to the execution) of bone-crushing power. On "Movies And Books" the chorus surges with a resigned power that only a band with a long history together would typically be able to achieve. Epley showcases his falsetto with a batch of fine lyrics, too: "and I could complicate you/in ways you can't relate to/and I could steal your halo/and keep it under my pillow." "Servo" is a latter-day Shiner song that never made it onto anything, but it suits The Life And Times' more spacious context, anyway. The title track is an epic dirge on the grandest scale. After a slow build-up, monstrous riffs emerge and climax with a majestic upsurge, wherein Epley's vocals just take over. It's so good.

With such a distinguished pedigree, it's natural to have high expectations, but post-breakup bands rarely come off with even half the esteem of their originals. So, it's such a relief to know that Epley has longevity tucked safely in his pocket. It'd be a shame for a songwriter of his caliber just to fall off the face of the earth, but this debut promises that that will not happen any time soon.