Review Summary: re-submit
Erect The Youth Problem, the only album released by the band Wives, is the kind of thing that still sounds deafeningly loud even when played at low volumes. The band was a three piece, but the music is hardly spare; every instrument (guitar, bass, drums) is absolutely cranked to distorted, unnerving peaks. With bassist/singer Dean Spunt’s yowled vocals, which fit somewhere between having a place high in the mix and being completely unintelligible, holding their own with all the noisy instrumentation, it makes for a really fun, fantastic hardcore record.
Though Spunt would eventually sing intelligent, if simple, story-telling-type lyrics with the band No Age, (which finds Dean on drums, and is rounded out by Wives guitarist Randy Randall) with Wives his words drip with a socio-political essence that finds him wavering somewhere between astute, soapbox politics and raw, youthful intensity (imagine a frustrated metaphor-happy high-school kid delivering a speech in front of his class, and you’ll get the idea.) All vocals are delivered via Spunt’s high-pitched howl, of course, which is as much Keith Morris (Circle Jerks/Black Flag) as it is Eric Paul (Chinese Stars/Arab on Radar), and adds a specific sense of urgent aggravation to every word.
Ok, so aggravation in hardcore is far from a rare trait, but what sets the band apart is its genre-bending music and its unmatched ferocity. On Boys Club, the album’s longest track, Wives craft a cacophonous bass, drum n’ feedback buildup, which works its way into a terse and Fugazi-esque guitar-aided verse, and, ultimately, into a chaotic and wholly ridiculous climax (Lightning Bolt wouldn’t be a far off comparison at this point in the song.) With Babies, Dean muses on the subject of age, with the line “When babies die, they go to heaven” featuring prominently, over one of the album’s most straight forward, hardcore rhythms. That is, before the song twists itself into a pseudo-garage rock barnburner. All Dads Alike, The album’s shining moment, showcases more of the same ferocity, more of Spunt’s twisted bitterness, and a host of delightful rhythm changes, where on Mother Russia, the band plays hard and fast, with Randall’s guitar channeling Sonic Youth, and Spunt singing with haggard emotion. “I should have bought more time,” shouts the singer, with more passion and conviction than anything else on the record. Overall, Erect the Youth Problem is an extremely solid album, full of twists, turns and ear-drum busting noise.