Sunday, July 20, 2014
Sunday Sludge: The Powder Room - "Curtains"
Nostalgia has its place, I suppose. 2014's been loaded with reissues and throwback celebrations of many of the albums I spun twenty years ago, secluding myself in my room and pretending I wasn't skimming stroke books. Soundgarden and Meat Puppets were on heavy rotation, so catching these bands live at a ripened 33 years is a strange blend of the wistful and the sad. Contemporary bands glazed with early 90's influence, however, bring more suspiscion than sentiment. "We're influenced by My Bloody Valentine and Pavement." No, you're actually just bland and derivative.
Dodging scorn requires, obviously, innovation and progress. Crafting a sound that reminds me of something I can't quite pin-down is Athens, Georgia's The Powder Room. The trio's marriage of tradition and evolution marks just one of innumerable juxtapositions evident on Curtains, a nine-track exercise of (here it comes) whisper-to-a-scream jolts and assured stop-start sludge-noise that's somehow swollen with hooks and groove despite a devotion to rugged, violent filth. You can slam a warming Old Milwaukee, but you can also take a few breaths before you order another.
You're likely gonna hear more about these guys and who they sound like, but that's omitting what's much more important. The whole of this album trends dirty and downward, baiting you close with jarring tin guitar licks on the bass-led opener Disappointment. But moving through tracks like Earthworm and Frayed, you'll notice a sense of urgency under the dog-dollar trot. Pacing is tense, elements circle like hornets, and the screeches and shifting tempos are fucking dizzying. It doesn't take long until we're on our backs, knees to the sky.
Perhaps what sets apart these songs most is what's achieved between the gnashed lament. Blowout is sludgy and drenched in dischord, but Dead Pet truly resonates in its cavernous creepiness. There's a sparse atmosphere bookending the crushing brew of noise, all wrapped not-so-neatly in a cold, hollow wind. When the band isn't patching up last night's lumbered haze, they're peppering quick cruisers supplemented with frantic focus. There's a staggering level of movement on Curtains, though the unpredictability is strangely palpable.
This noise is slung with purpose and rolls with cool confidence. For all the low-end thickness and jagged licks, the tufts of melancholy worm their way into your senses with catchy nuance. The Powder Room are both trim and tubby, both fresh and seasoned. Forget what influence you think you're hearing. Focus more on what mood Curtains has drawn up for you. Thickening as it cools, the album is as all-encompassing as any I've heard in ages. There's a LOT here to digest. Luckily, I've got nothing but time.
For fans of: Melvins, Whores., Fudge Tunnel
Pair with: Breakfast Stout, Founders Brewing Co.