Review Summary: gnarled teeth and barbed wire
revolutionized the relationship between underground rock music and this simple conceit of stoical restings, making it a bit unfair for every band that followed in the same vein of moody, spoken-word punk. As a result, most fear being overshadowed by the post-rock giants. However, Big Ups aren’t really afraid of the artist comparison anymore; they’ve established themselves as the reincarnation of the late band, yet are constantly pushing their own highs to new extremes. While their previous material simply copy and pasted the angular, dissonant Slint aesthetic into a PUP-esque punk structure, Two Parts Together
yields slightly different products. As if the album name wasn’t telling enough, it’s clearly a project focused on dualities and contrast, both musically and lyrically. Appropriately, the titular track blazes by with a chugging intro riff only to immediately halt, letting a plucked guitar riff to smoothly and quietly enter alongside Joe Galarraga’s monotone impersonation of Brian McMahan. Galarraga often yelps about the dichotomy between expectations and realities while the rhythmic section flips between echoing silence and earth-shattering violence. The lone straight-up punk track, ‘PPP’, highlights this while also nodding to the fortune teller that resided in ‘Breadcrumb Trail’: “a prism, projection, prediction / look into the crystal / and see what you wanna see
”. While seemingly bitter and broken stylistically, the line acts more as a fervent warning for the stubborn generations of today. He later sums up this theme by defining fear as “what you don’t know
”, while later lamenting about the anxious moments before and after sleep. Although a bit ironic when analyzed thematically, ‘Tell Them’ urgently asks its audience to yell back into the void with fervor and passion, as seen with Galarraga’s own desperate shouts. Impatience permeates in the form of lyrical bouts while the music, composed and collected, gasps at solitude in between the shouts.
It’s also worth noting the budget upgrade compared to their previous efforts. In fact, it’s truly the driving factor behind the impact of this album. Instead of fuzzy, lo-fi distortion bleeding through the channels, the guitar tones take on obvious characteristics which range from sparkling clean pluckings to gritty sludge riffs, often transitioning between the two in a blink of the eye. Usually mirroring Galarraga’s own tonal dualities, the guitar and bass team up to either highlight the snarls or hold up the fragile and tired spoken bits. While it’s obvious the production more than spotlights the band’s knack for sudden transitions and gritty atmospheric sections, it’s the subtleties that push the producer’s efforts into the territory of success. On the anthemic closer, ‘Imaginary Dog Walker’, there is a morning dew of click-track electronics and a nightcap of milky, weepy strings, bookending an already well-written stop/start jam. Even the silent moments are efficacious in adding to the low ends of this record. Make no mistake, this is the most quiet the group has ever been, but I think as a result it also might trick it’s listener into thinking this is, at times, the loudest they’ve played. While their fast-paced Melvins-esque days are over, contrasting elements clash together to amplify the newfound appreciation for jawtooth sludge rock. Structurally, the tracks are constantly pushing their own experimentation boundaries, as seen with ‘Trying To Love’ and its emo-tinged outro and clever faux-buildups. The splashes of these alien genres almost always add some needed muted blues and greens to the otherwise monotone water-colorings; ‘Tenmile’s’ psychedelic atmosphere is no exception to this sentiment, despite simply being a 2-minute interlude. While I personally adore finding composure within the already loud and brash (‘Tell Them’ mostly resides in one dynamic, yet slightly elevates its own energy for a satisfying finish), there’s something here for every poised listener.
I’d tell you to be patient, but I think Big Ups are already past that.