Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Pettybone - From Desperate Times Come Radical Minds
As a young man I fully embraced hardcore punk. The music had an energy and aggression that my beloved thrash metal couldn’t fully match and the moral/political stand point sat squarely within my idealistic young beliefs. As with so many musical movements, however, I gradually saw this become watered down and the energy dissipated and with it my interest. It seems though, the true spirit of hardcore has survived and passed me by for the last 20 years or so, until, that is, someone slipped me a copy of this debut album by London punks Pettybone.
Hot holy shit, these four young ladies deliver a sound that encapsulates the rage and aggression of those early hardcore days and wraps it up with a breadth and musicality that many of those early bands would struggle to match. From the opening blast of “Pettybone”, very much a manifesto statement, through the Riot Grrrl meets hardcore of “Le Regard” to the closing semi pastiche of “The Blues Song” this album bristles with unrepentant fury and an almost tangible sense of purpose. Amy’s vocal chords threaten to leap from her throat to escape the strain they’re being put under while Ivona’s guitar work is both brutal yet inventive with a subtle sense of melody running through even the most vitriolic of riffs. Her playing really is the ace in the pack as she offers a real sense of depth and range in her playing that draws from indie as much as it does punk rock. Former Invasion drummer Zel shows herself to be one of the most powerful drummers around as she drives each song with an almost metronomic intensity while bassist Lianna avoids the usual trap of a lot of punk bassist of following the guitars and offers her own melodic counterpoint to the abrasive guitar work.
Where a lot of hardcore can become monotonous over the course of a whole album, Pettybone have the song writing chops to keep the listener gripped and attentive. “Breaking Away” flits from a restrained opening to all out assault to a Melvins style grind halfway through and it’s this ability to chop and change the vibe and the pace that keeps Pettybone one step ahead of the listener. The 20 plus years that have occurred since the original hardcore movement appeared have served the band well as they are able to assimilate the greater spread of influences into their sound. Would any of the original bands have been able to create the dark yet beautiful intro to “Northern Line” that Pettybone craft seamlessly into their acidic, Hell like vision of the world.
One other thing that sets Pettybone apart is their authenticity. One look at their website and it becomes clear that the band walk it like they talk it and their political/humanist viewpoint is at the forefront of their credo. They offer up advice for those in need of help and frequently report on various issues that makes for as compelling reading as the album does listening.
It is little surprise to find that Converge main Kurt Ballou took the helm for mixing this ferocious little beast as the sound is thick yet edgy with the drums hitting right in the solar plexus while the guitars circle like hungry vultures. As much as this album sounds great cranked in a room or in the car, its true subtleties come out on headphones where Ivona’s guitar really shines…that’s if it doesn’t leave your ears bleeding!!!
Gentleman, tether your nuts to your leg as this album threatens to rip them right off. This is as fine and brutal yet varied a hardcore album as I’ve heard in over 20 years and one that has reignited the reasons behind my getting into this kind of music in the first place. Pettybone aren’t just ones to watch, they won’t give you a choice. If there’s any justice they’ll get right in your face until you comply!!!