Local accident: Two brilliantly unique EPs
Ever since punk became a vampire, the genre's great bands have replaced broad salvos with homemade sounds- cookies! And here now are two CDs that feel local, present, irreducible; their idiosyncrasies are part of their brilliance and a foundation for confrontation (or, at least, a lot of beautiful noise-making).
The Id's twin guitars make an awesomely dirty din– motorcycles stuck in the mud– but they're running off a reliable pop engine. You will not take this dissonance as discomfort: The Id mine their scratchy strings for texture and volume, but what I hear most are intricate, loopy melodies.
As for many of today's "post-punk" bands, it's the beat that's particularly innovative, disorienting, and, on the new Quadraped EP, seasick. I wish Id drummer Beth Mickle would teach a master class: Her spare stutters show more finesse and creativity than all those stupid rocker fills. The drums here are essential, exploding in splashes and the jagged, inexact "pops" one associates with Rice Krispies.
With a breathless drive, catchy vocals, and smart lyrics, "The Arm of Stonewall Jackson" must be the best song ever written about Richmond. More incredulous than angry, it deserves some lovely memory within the ex-Confederate mind of the future.
On the other hand, the Ultra Dolphins' lyrics and music have few clear referents: I think of a heavy, spike-laden exercise bike. If the trio's new EP is even aggressive, it's only for sparring.
The Ultra Dolphins are one of the most engrossing acts within an incredibly physical punk subgenre wherein, like buildings, the songs are about themselves and their relationships to other (musical) structures. Only sweaty, exultant, tantrum-throwing humans live there. If the riffs are occasionally meandering, they help distance the listener from (plentiful) cerebral pleasures, and lock us into the song's frantic momentum.
Disorienting and antsy, these songs are not bludgeons; they are thrillers, inventing astonishing twists and turns, avoiding all that is hackneyed in hardcore. Even "Shoont!" which uses its genre's devices more obviously (launches and lurches, sirens and sludges), feels like the work of a craftsman with a vast toolbelt.
The playful victory-melody at the song's end ("Im-puh-see-bluh-bay-bay!") is especially unexpected and welcome.
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, respectively, to acquire these brief, exciting records. The Ultra Dolphins recently relocated from Harrisonburg to Philly, and The Id will soon be moving from Central Virginia to that "better place." My faith in our local idiosyncrasies, however, is still strong.