Review Summary: Please don't let me down.
The words which spring to mind to describe Material Control
circle around a common theme: lean, sinewy, jagged, brutal. My way of phrasing would be that it doesn't take its hand off the throttle for a second; the album gets your throat in a chokehold early on, then holds you out the car window at high speed. Only at two points do proceedings slow down, and that's to fully unearth the menace rather than give us a breather. "strange hours" is the closest thing to a Coloring Book
track here with its looping synthesised bassline, but the anticlimax end imposes a darker atmosphere; while the dubby title track is built around a moment of meta-humour so good, I'm still wondering if it's a loving throwback or a 'fuck you'. In either case, the Glassjaw of 2017 are clearly unconcerned with making music for anyone except their younger, fiercer, New York City hardcore-loving selves.
opens up a raw vein of the Glassjaw entity, and inside we see a white-hot nerve cluster fuelled by the memories of jaded summers. The album is pretty much unique – the closest analogue is the stripped-back garage sound of Our Color Green (The Singles)
, as the title track throws a winking acknowledgement to, but even the heaviest of those songs revolved around skyscraper hooks that landed somewhere within the realm of modern post-hardcore. Not Material Control
. The grimy guitar and bass dominate the mix, Daryl often pushed far into the background, as "golgotha" and "pompeii" instead venture into the territory of ugly, lumbering noise rock. It's not until "closer" that a truly awesome Daryl hook makes an appearance, because that's not where the interest of this album lays. It's in the moments of sublime beauty that don't so much contrast with the pummeling rage as they are formed by it: the harmony which soars over the chorus of "my conscience weighs a ton" like sun above a cloudburst, "new white extremity" and its heartfelt cry for a connection, the wailing tremolo guitar "bibleland 6" deploys like heavy artillery.
One more word which will surely spring up around Material Control
will be underwhelming. That's not just because time and tide have raised Glassjaw to a pantheon nigh impossible to live up to; it's the result of an album tailor-made to be confusing and frequently frustrating. That's not really a judgement, but a deliberate flaw can still be a glaring one, and the whiplash endings of "strange hours" and "cut and run" aren't good enough to compensate for choking out good songs in their prime. But again, Material Control
doesn't cater to anything except the next rush of adrenaline, the next high; it thrives on the left turn, the bait-and-switch, that wonderful tingling moment when your blood is up and you wonder "what the fuck am I listening to?" with teeth bared. It's there in the brutally short runtime, the songs sequenced to bleed into one another, the lack of easy hooks as a checkpoint. Let all that serve to reassure any doubts, then – this is a Glassjaw album, through and through.