Review Summary: With influences ranging from Sonic Youth to Pavement, More leaves you wanting exactly that
Listening to Smith Westerns' Dye It Blonde
made me realize something. It got me thinking about age in relation to music. Particularly, how bands like Radiohead or Wilco can sound so old while up-and-coming bands like Smith Westerns, Born Ruffians or Harlem sound so young. And it's not just literally how old these guys are, it's more about how the music can sound so raw and unpolished and youthful. Whereas Radiohead's songs emanate this polished, meticulous and cleanly produced sound, albums like Dye It Blonde
are gritty, loud and unashamed. Even when you trace Wilco's discography, you can see how the spry, upbeat ballads of Summerteeth
have been slowly traded in for slower acoustic reflections or even the "dad-rock" of Sky Blue Sky
I don't mean to be making broad generalizations here; sure, there are some old guys who can still ROCK. Nor am I insinuating that "old sounding" music is forever at a disadvantage because it doesn't sound young. Radiohead's incredibly complex songwriting isn't made any less compelling by the fact that they are older dudes. Their songs still pulsate with energy without having to sound like they were recorded in their buddy's basement. But for me, there's something rewarding about hearing an album that just sounds like it was made by a bunch of kids my age.
Double Dagger's More
is that sonic youthful exuberance at its best. Another product of Baltimore's prolific and consistently fantastic music scene, Double Dagger play a fascinating mix of punk, post-hardcore and noise rock. Wait, there's a catch: Double Dagger manage to be loud-as-fu
ck without even using guitar. Just drums, vocals, and an incredibly loud distorted bass. In between grating blasts of feedback, chugging bass fills and pounding drums, singer Nolen Strals yells and drones about life in surburbia, politics and other typical punk subjects. His frantic shouting and tendency for spoken word definitely calls to mind mewithoutYou's A-->B Life
, though on "The Lie/The Truth," Strals might find himself broke with how much his sarcastic drawl and wry lyrics owe to Stephen Malkmus.
The Pavement and mewithoutYou influences are only the beginning. There's elements of Sonic Youth in the band's spastic bursts of feedback and Death From Above 1979 in the fuzzed out bass lines of Bruce Willen, as well as the influence of countless noise punk bands like Pissed Jeans, No Age, and Weekend. But at it's heart, More owes the most to it's post-punk and post-hardcore forefathers. Bands like Joy Division, Mission of Burma, Fugazi and Moss Icon, where the bass asserted itself as a cathartic noisemaker instead of just a background instrument.
Most importantly, More
strikes the perfect balance between punk rock energy and abstract experimentation. Songs like "Camouflage" and "Helicopter Lullaby" are as youthful as punk rock gets. "Camouflage" builds off a muddy bass lick and then becomes a toe-tapping rhythmic sing-along, thanks to drummer Denny Bowen's excellent drum work. "Helicopter Lullaby" begins with dueling swells of noise before exploding into one of the album's most memorable choruses. The album closes with it's heaviest track, "Two-Way Mirror," a mix of thick sludgy bass, abrasive screams and shrill feedback.
In it's entirety, More
is one of the most ambitious punk rock albums that I've heard in a long time. It's reliance on the minimalism of drum/bass set-up does not stop it from being one of the most richly textured and diverse albums in the genre. It sticks to its roots of 80s and 90s post-hardcore while simultaneously referencing and expanding upon the direction of noise-punk contemporaries. Most importantly, the band sounds so familiar and so young that it makes it damn near impossible not to be rooting for these guys and singing along by the time your halfway through the album. And with a sound this compelling, I don't think Double Dagger are going to start sounding old anytime soon.