Music Reviews
Mating Surfaces

Lithics Mating Surfaces

(Kill Rock Stars) Rating - 9/10

As I dove into my umpteenth listen of Mating Surfaces, the second LP from Portland post-punk quartet, Lithics, I came to the following conclusion:

I don’t believe rock has stalled so much as it’s attempting to regain some footing in the underground since the mainstream has chosen to reject it.

What I hear are grafted swathes of unpolished notes, old, albeit inventive and roughly designed sounds attached to a modern band who grant them new opportunities to be discordant and meaningful.  As post-punk and 1980s indie rock attempted to outrun the blues-plagiarist 60s and the snobbish academia and arena-cultivated, over-the-shoulder cock swinging hubris of the 70s, a band like Lithics is attempting to make a good rock record at a time when we’re led to believe that no one cares.  If that’s true, then people are missing out:  Mating Surfaces is a lot of fun.

With an immediate appeal and an evocative and nervous twitch throughout, Mating Surfaces maintains a gratifying pace, balancing energy and peculiarity throughout its 29-minute runtime.  From the playful swing of Excuse Generator to the crumbling free wave of Dancing Guy, there’s a manic disposition that contrasts with vocalist Aubrey Hornor, her syllables laced with a calm and slight resignation and a lyrical economy that shares some commonality with Minutemen’s D. Boon.  Every song makes its point very quickly, barely exceeding the two-minute mark in many cases.  One of the album’s longer offerings, the agitated, noise-riddled Boyce, is rife with scrubbed fretwork, persistent bass throbs anchoring the mire.

Yes, there are evident nods to post-punk’s evolved aggressiveness, most especially No Wave’s attempts at anti-melody.  The projectile that is When Will I Die recalls some of DNA’s guitar inflections, and the string-plucked ruts of Cheryl sound based on Sonic Youth’s noted blend of experimental dissonance and conjured angst.  That being said, Lithics successfully fashions these sounds to suit their own expression, crafting odd rhythmic foundations in Still Forms and the minimalist syncopation of Be Nice Alone.  The band’s more straight ahead, high-tempo output like Glass of Water, Flat Rock and Edible Door (which would be a great single) brandishes enough dueling guitar textures that the performances sound almost improvised, retaining signature melodies while adlibbing at points.  They manage to be playful without being poppy, succeeding in this case where a lot of modern punk rock fails. 

Was Dancing Guy meant as an update of Frank Zappa’s Dancin’ Fool?  Closing out Mating Surfaces with its strangest track, Dancing Guy appropriately crosses into the realm of dance-worthy avant, itself at a full swing before coming apart as every instrument is suddenly fumbled.  “Goodbye, Dancing Guy,” Horner sullenly offers just before the band picks up the pace long enough for this good time to come to an end. [Believe the Hype]