Music Reviews

Parts & Labor Receivers

(Jajaguwar / Brah) Buy it from Insound Rating - 9/10

Metallic melody maelstrom! May the heavens praise Fucked Up and their severely righteous new record, but for my Monopoly Money Receivers is a more thrilling cross-section of the ever-peaking creative trajectory commonly known as “revitalizing hardcore.”  I went hunting for a fitting prefix and came back with ‘bizarro-core’: this sounds like that wonderful place that hardcore went on some inexplicable and inverted shadow earth.

I think I’m thinking of the Minutemen, and their unofficial motto: “Punk is whatever you make of it.” The question, then: what do we do with this music, having exhausted its basic stylistic premises? Fugazi suggested: make it funky. Now, Parts & Labor suggest: slow it down and cover it with sugar. And make sure the words are audible.  Otherworldly, indeed.

The title of the album‘s barn-burning anthem, Nowhere’s Nigh, is a sweet alliterative emblem to the music on Receivers: both sonically and lyrically, the fourth Parts & Labor record is a pre-apocalypse document, controls quivering at the heart of something unfathomable but eerily imminent.  Each track is a destructive paean to the punk pop song, with the urge to craft sing-along sky-fist fodder deflected, but never obscured, by the desire to stir belly acid via caterwaul.   The lyrics abound with consumerist signatures de-familiarized (“Guzzled desert teats a black milk precedent,” “gas stations flutter constellating in the night”,) and cleverly rebuked (“escape the house that looks like all the others in a sinking mass produced,”) the cumulative result being a sense of collective urgency rendered all the more palpable in that it lacks a readily identifiable source (“The cities merge the lights converge the buzzing blurs into a single sigh”).  If the lyrics to Receivers seem curious on the printed page, reckon them spewed with tenacious clarity in the form of a seemingly inexhaustible string of stick-to-yr-rib hooks.  Phrases like “eroding stare,” “languid rapture dreams,” and, my personal fave, “cliché raven caws,” are all the more enchanting when sung pitch perfect over the band’s finely honed havoc. 

Speaking of which: Dan Friel’s electronics are, as always, oozing bomb-shelter monoliths, but on Receivers, more so than any of the group‘s previous work, the noises are vital, not just an intense complement to the 4/4 groundwork. The mode is not juxtaposition but balance: there seems to be at least one whole other record of Friel’s sonic sand art in here, pulsing below the “formal” songs with a hidden logic. That said, this record cannot be halved along the border between noise and song; on Receivers, this margin is indecipherable 

The cut tempos and relatively extended track lengths that distinguish Receivers from the band’s previous records recall a similar turn in late period Black Flag.  Those who treat this as a sign of the band going soft are suffering from tunnel vision: one may recall accounts of a young and pimply Lars Ulrich attending his first Flag show and famously complaining, “Why don’t they play faster?” The calculated pummel of The Ceasing Now answers, “drifting in the mire”: momentum is a matter of power and texture, not just one of speed. 

The album’s generative “concept” is as strange and incredible as its music.  The band posted a toll free number and solicited sound samples from their fans, and from what I understand the bulk of the donated noise was used on the album.  It is, of course, virtually impossible to detect which sounds belong to the band and those that were phoned in.  Whether this ambiguity emerged by accident or design, the thought of Parts & Labor as a conduit, as receivers and transmitters of the curious and electric, is an incredibly appealing one.