Review Summary: The best proggy screamo band that you've never heard.
Punk is a genre of music that is doomed to leave its best bands shrouded in obscurity. Once a band actually gets recognition, fans and the exposure that those entail bands typically end up feeling that they have to play for their fans. While they were playing in the basements they typically released their best albums because they didn’t have any one to impress. They had the desire to make some personal and emotional music for the sake of making personal and emotional music. When we look at the punk bands that have crawled their way out of the basement over the years we typically see a decline of quality from them, but when we look at those bands classic bands who never made it out of the basements we see a different story. We see hardly any drop in musical quality as their careers progressed. In most of the scenarios that those bands never quite made it we see a band who improves over time because they never lose that emotional connection to themselves and who they play for, and we see musicians become more and more technically sound.
Enter Houston We Have a Problem
, you’ve probably never heard of them, and that’s because they never left the basement. Over their four year career they released a demo and three full length albums. This, “Shipwreck,” is their third and final full length release. They were a band with two guitarists, two people screaming as hard as they could to get over top of one another, occasionally a third, clean back up vocalist, a bassist and a drummer. So for a band with that many roles to fill you would expect what, five, six members? Shockingly they only had four, and all managed to hold down one role without compromising their others. They played a fairly progressive brand of screamo. They would wake long passages of extremely intense, and loud hardcore music with screamed vocals while managing to refrain from sounding grindy in any way. They broke up these long, intense sections with post-rockish sections as well as sampling, but calling them a post-rock screamo band a-la City of Caterpillar
would be far from the truth. In fact their closest comparison would probably be to Circle Takes The Square
with much less clear annunciation of words. That partially stems from them being much more lo-fi (all releases were self produced), and it partially stems from the vocals being, well, more emotional, and intense.
The first track of the album, Poseidon, Angered
, is the longest track on the album at over ten minutes long. It is a ten minute adventure through artistically selected samples, ambient background synthesizers and guitars and drums providing a post-rock sound. The samples are of spoken word passages from who-knows-where that cover a range of subjects, while mainly dealing with the ideas of death, emotion and infiniteness. It is devoid of vocals, yet it manages to set you up exactly for the feelings that are about to wash over you once it ends. It leaves you feeling useless and insignificant. Then it ends with “We’ve got to remain rational! Logical, logical.”
think in those kinds of terms. It doesn’t work that way, that’s not how people really are.”
“We’ve got to remain rational, we’ve got to. There’s no choice. It has to work, it’s got to work.” And then the album begins.
We enter to pure insanity. Two voices charge out toward us from the darkness, shoving one another, and reaching for our throats. During that you may have missed the two guitars picking away while the are drums beating in a frenzy. There is no consistent pattern to the drumming, there is, however, the desire to have every single head and cymbal vibrating at the same time. For twenty odd seconds this happens before it dips into near silence before there is quiet guitar picking in the background. From the deep mixings of the mp3 comes a high-pitched and desperate squeal that can hardly be understood. No more than an occasional word can be picked out. Then again the second guitar comes in and once again the intensity is back. For perhaps two minutes we endure what we had felt just before it. Then the music once again quiets. Perhaps this time we will be allowed to enjoy a beautiful interlude, but then we hear both of those voices reaching out from the back. If only we could understand their incessant cries were saying we might comprehend the torture they are receiving. We continue to hear the cries and the drums, as well as twinkling guitars somewhere near, but they obviously have no desire to steal the spotlight from the moaning. Over the next few minutes the guitars and drums take on a sort of consistent definition while they grow in strength and volume. It seems that the attack might reoccur, but then the silence sets in. And then, you ask? It happens again, three more times.