Strangers - 'Holding' Review
07 Feb 2007 // A review by trevf
Review by trevf
1. Meursalt Blues
Action Man Records (AMR D01)
"This demo is intended as a promotional ‘taster’ of the as–yet-untitled STRANGERS full-length due later in the year
" Action and records press release.
STRANGERS are a Wellington band whose sound and line up evolved throughout 2006 by gigging, and, it would seem from their site and press release, self-reflection. This Demo CD presents four songs as an indication of their sound.
So what is that sound? Aggression. Screaming/howling vocals. Thundering drums, with plenty of double bass drumming and double time backbeats. Guitars with absolutely no fat on them at all and no time wasted with solos - or time wasted at all - with the longest track clocking in at 2:45. Super tight arrangements. A taut, intense musical experience.
So, a bold musical statement, and an idiosyncratic one. Is it going to alienate an audience? Well yes. And no. It’s an aggressive sound, and you might not want to be up the front of their live shows or play it to the “olds” but in this music there is brains and musicianship. Listeners with open ears will find real rewards. The best “way in” would be the final song of this CD, 'Teenagers' which is clearly the standout track.
Extra credit in three areas:
1) A wonderfully presented CD.
2) Obviously an “organic” sound. Which is intended to mean that the creative process has plainly been musicians playing together to develop it …. One doubts very much if much editing, overdubs or Pro Tools shenanigans have gone on here.
3) The lyrics, reproduced here on the CD cover, are at times extraordinary (best example? Track two 'Holding') It is a shame though - and this is a criticism - that the needs of the sound mean that the lyrics are hard to get without having them in front of you to read. This is especially true when the lyrics are actually worth hearing.
Innovation seems a fairly distant concept in heavy music as of late. Hardcore punk certainly is a beaten track, and it would seem that re-creation of the ‘glory years’ or just following the rest is the norm. Perhaps it’s the attempt that matters. Perhaps we have all simply heard so much music that the basis for what’s heavy or affective is constantly slimming. One thing that can be said of STRANGERS is that they are still trying.
Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Strangers
Whether or not they will achieve this with their first full-length, Weight, is for the listener to decide. The record certainly builds on the aggressive and confrontational style hinted at in the 4-song demo “Holding” (which sold out completely in weeks). But Weight is also an album of maturity and progression that expands from the simple scope of pure aggression. Juxtaposing the speed and passion of d-beat influenced tracks like “Meursault Blues” and “Holding” is a real sensitivity to texture and dynamic, exemplified in a range of ways – from the midpaced and depressive plod of “You Crawl” to the unshackled and ephemeral fury of tracks like “With Faces” and “Expositions”; all of which show a desire to strip back to the basics of the rock genre.
All in all, maybe punk rock has had its day for shocking the listener, and the future is one of reshaping the past into new forms. While no band can claim to rise above their own musical influences, STRANGERS certainly aim to keep pushing that envelope into new and unsettling areas.