Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Primate "Draw Back A Stump" (Relapse): Phobia "Remnants Of Filth" (Willowtip)

So going back to this supergroup thing,  I guess we should count in Atlanta quintet Primate. That's because cabinet-maker (by day) and lead Brutal Truth rasper (by night) Kevin Sharp - also of Venomous Concept, who are *undoubtedly* a supergroup - is joined in this latest endeavour by longtime mates from other bands including, on bass, Bill Kelliher of the much-favoured Mastodon.

Ten tracks in twenty minutes probably tells you all you really need to know about "Draw Back A Stump", but if compelled to sum it up in a sentence, we'd likely aver that it's a 21st century Black Flag tribute (there's a Flag cover included for good measure) with grindcore vocals and nicely-joined up lyrical themes (revolving mostly around chaos theory and, er, the philosophy of chaos), peppered with bouts of irresistible d-beat riffing if slightly disfigured by too many guitar breaks and tempered by a certain inconsistency. We'd then ignore any strictures about a single sentence altogether, and tell you that even though it's not all gravy (they're no Venomous Concept, alas), you would get a fairly astonishing 7" EP if you put together the title track, the period piece "Wasted Youth" and the short sharp closing bonus cuts "Reform ?" and the refreshingly direct "Get The Fuck Off My Lawn". Oh, and we'd express a certain sadness that the likes of Cerebral Ballzy (whose own ten track, twenty minute album only really had two great songs) can get hella better press for doing something not too dissimilar, in spirit at least, largely by dint of being (a) younger and (b) from Noo York.

Whilst Primate come at us with no past form of their own, Orange County's Phobia have a harder task selling "Remnants Of Filth", because it's the follow-up to their "Unrelenting" EP, which was the best single of 2010. And, unfortunately, it doesn't manage to meet expectations: somehow everything about it (the sleeve, the production, the execution) feels like a slight step backward since the high of "Unrelenting", although another change of labels and some further switching of personnel presumably hasn't made it easy for them. That's not to say we don't savour listening to "Remnants Of Filth": much of it remains sterling stuff, see-sawing with some glee from grind to crust and back again, often sounding convincingly like it was recorded in the West Midlands at the end of the 1980s, rather than in the States last yr. In keeping with this there are a few echoes of the marvellous Doom (particularly in the low-end vocals), which we didn't get so much from "Unrelenting", while the indubitably ace "Filthy Fucking Punks" boasts a *very* 80s/90s crust title (incidentally, both it - and another standout, "Infraction Of Pride" - don't sound too far removed from our favourite songs on the Primate album).

We also like the fact that in Phobia's world, 17 tunes in 14 minutes was definitely an EP, whereas 18 tunes in 19 minutes is considered an album. That suggests some fairly clear dividing lines. We suppose that once you get to averaging over one minute per track, you've crossed the Rubicon, and are clearly moving into a sphere so restrained, leisurely and indulgent that you're morally bound to dignify the result as a "long player".

But. After listening to these perfectly sound, occasionally special but nevertheless - whisper it - patchy albums, there's just *something* gnawing away at us. When "Unrelenting" (and Kill The Client's "Set For Extinction") came out at the tail-end of 2010, they seemed to usher in an excoriating new phase of grindcore and hardcore-powered music: within a matter of months we had landmark albums from Wormrot, Scapegoat and Death Toll 80k, pretty mighty ones from Despise You, Lock-Up and Rotten Sound, and rock-solid outings from Weekend Nachos, SSS, Noisear and Looking For An Answer. Every single one of those records contained individual songs that we've no doubt will stand up to the scrutiny of history. Not to mention those winning singles from Sidetracked and Coke Bust and Beartrap, and the Rotted, and Wormrot again... so why, a whole year having slipped past since the last of those, has nothing really tickled us that way since ? Is it just us ?

Gulp. We think of the words on Mark E. Smith, on "Just Step S'Ways":

"When what used to excite you does not / like you've used up all your allowance of experiences"

... and we wonder, and we worry... we're not falling out of love, are we ?

For much as we adore old warhorses like Napalm Death (oh, and you might just hear yet more on them from this blog soon enough), we confess to being a little concerned that only *they*, in this field, have delivered something of equivalent quality so far this year.  That seems an unreasonable burden to place on their shoulders, a little like banking on Daley Thompson still taking decathlon gold in 2012 (the fact that, to complete the metaphor, it appears that Napalm Death can still triumph in said decathlon - in face of said unreasonable expectations - is neither here nor there).

Hmmm. We can only hope that it's not "just us", and that this fallow spell (or, as Edwyn would have had it, "lean period") is merely the calm before a new musical storm.

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