Review Summary: Sleazy bass-punk from the depths of Wales.
Exit_International are a three-piece from Wales, comprising of a drummer and two bass players. That's right, no guitars. However, barely 20 seconds into their debut album, the listener is left in absolutely no doubt: Who the hell needs guitars anyway?! Their music is a bass-heavy (clearly) blend of heavy rock, alongside no small amount of post-hardcore aspects. The closest I can come to explaining the overall sound is to imagine Girls Against Boys
rocking out with The Blood Brothers
somewhere in the dark recesses of Nick Oliveri's mind.
Glory Horn kicks proceedings off with what seems to be a basic rhythm on the hi-hats, until the bass attack starts up with a pummeling riff that almost collapses in on itself, before everything explodes into a full-on aural assault and singer Scott Andrews practically yelps in at a pitch totally juxtaposed to the roaring low end of the music. By the time the chorus hits, and he's screaming "Hey vodka island, it's where I'm sailing away!", the realisation that this is something special is hammered home. The opening track leads into first single Sex W/ Strangers, a song that bounces along to the shrill vocals with staccato bass noises, rolling back and forth with Andrews' assertion: "Never said I wanna be a... man!". After a brief moment of calm, it quickly builds back into a roar, and gang vocals power the song home with the perversely cheery shouts of "Holding me down, down by the face, ***ing loving it!"
The metallic edged Voices follows, before the irresistably hip-swinging double hit of Bad Ass and the delicious Bowie's Ghost. The first five songs are done in little over twelve minutes, and this is the general tone of the album, with 13 tracks speeding by in barely 33 minutes. Other than the more restrained and salacious King Of Junkies, at an almost epic 4:40, nothing on the album goes far past the three minute mark, most even less than that. What is truly remarkable is that no song on the album feels any less than completely fully formed and totally satisfying. Take for example the brilliantly named Sherman Fang. It bursts in with an on-off bass riff, with Andrews alternating between high-pitched outbursts and screamed lines. After two run throughs of verses and choruses ("They're the ugly sisters, they go la la la la"), the song takes a complete left turn into a beefed up, warm and fuzzy bass solo that will surely destroy any ill-prepared speakers. It moves along at a furious pace, before the song comes apart to Andrews' call of "Bastaaard!", and then reassembles to the repeated scream of "Nobody will ever know". If you aren't bouncing off the walls at this point, then you might need to check your pulse.
Following this, forthcoming single Chainsaw Song comes on with a full-on disco stomp and a riff that will make you question for the umpteenth time how the hell this muic can be made with just basses and a drumkit. It's one of the more straight-up rock numbers on the album, bringing to mind the punkier moments of QOTSA such as Tension Head, and leads into probably the most singalong track on the album, My Mouth Is Your Mouth. That is, if you can get away with singing "I got your DNA trapped under my fingers, you got my DNA all over your face". The chorus, however, is a thing of pure beauty. Scott shows that he can 'do' singing as well as all the other peculiar sounds he produces, and if Exit_International could reign in the lyrical subject matter a little they could potentially bother the charts from time to time.
Exit_international have made a definite statement of intent with Black Junk. The riffs that drive the album from song to song are rarely less than stunning, defying even the sternest listener to keep still for a second. The 33 minute run time flashes by, and yet somehow feels epic at the same time. Stick this album on your stereo, and it won't come off for a long time.