For Fans Of
There’s something in the water up at God City Studios, and whether the fact that it’s tucked in between creepy witch museums in Salem MA, or just the fact that Kurt Ballou is a gifted fuck behind the desk, anything that comes out of the place seems to be a head above the rest. California’s Lewd Acts have set quite a high bar for themselves with their debut LP “Black Eye Blues”, as well as squarely placing themselves in a musical pigeonhole in which they will inevitably face comparison to past heavyweights such as Verse and Have Heart.
The consistently wavering tempo of the album between gloomy dirges and chaotic fits of aggression lends to quite a restless listening experience, but a rewarding one. While the release is unmistakably hardcore, there are (despite the claim from the Deathwish Bio that the band has “shunned metal tendencies”) moments that wouldn’t seem out of place on an album from Crowbar or even earlier Mastodon recordings. Despite these changes in pace and tone between tracks, there is a sense of familiarity between each song that detracts (albeit in a minor way) from the listening experience. Coming in at under half an hour I found that after one listen I was ready to move on from the sound, which could be a crucial factor if the band decides to stick with this formula for future releases.
Much of the momentum and atmosphere throughout this record is generated largely from the guitar driven adagios that open and close tracks such Penmanship Sailed and Know Where to Go. Straight-forward, churning riffs underpinned by relatively no-frills drumming that comes off a little tepid from time to time, there is nothing mind-blowing or flashy about the musicianship here, but it all sits very evenly in the mix and provides a musical mise en scène in which the lyrics can tell their story unadulterated by show-ponying.
Frontman Tyler Densley’s creative influence on the record is a vital strength both musically and visually. His cover and liner art is an impressive sailor-jerryish take on the art of MC Escher and acts as an accurate visual accompaniment to the record (something seldom achieved in a scene where bands often opt adorn their liner notes with holga photos of empty gas stations).
The album’s lyrics follow what has become a fairly staple theme in hardcore, a narrative of a damaged upbringing passionately delivered through a gritty snarl. It’s not ground-breaking, but it’s not stale. Densley’s heavy use of metaphor and wordplay belie a man with a bit of a literary knack as they don’t come across as forced or contrived: “My father was a locomotive / and though he didn’t smoke / his hands were made of steel / his chest was full of coal / I don’t follow in his tracks.”
The album closes out with a resounding “I have nowhere to go”. There’s a risk that this statement could be more poignant than Mr. Densley had intended it to be– here’s hoping that’s not the case.
Know Where to Go
Wide Black Eyes
You Don’t Need Me
I Don’t Need You
Who Knew the West Coast Could Be So Cold
Young Lovers, Old Livers
Rock Gut Charlie
My Father Was a Locomotive
Nowhere to Go