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Sunday, May 5, 2013

Sunday Sludge: Akimbo - "Live To Crush"

Well, if you're gonna do it... do it. No secrets. No golden tickets. No wolf scratching at your door. In fact, it would seem the wolf's already got his claws in your back. But you weren't exactly blindsided, mate. You've got an ache in your frame that's gonna last for days, and every twinge of discomfort is a reminder of what Seattle's Akimbo promised and delivered on their coup de grĂ¢ce, Live To Crush. After fifteen years of punishment both inflicted and received, the band's white flag arrives in the form of nine painfully awesome splinters of brutality.

The album's amalgam of noise and sludge and feedback would mean nothing if Akimbo left out the aggression. Whether we're shaking out our loose teeth or reflecting at the rim of a vast canyon, we're later tearing open our shirts to examine the bootprints on our chests. Even at their most placid, Akimbo are ripping us open from groin to sternum.

Opening on the immediate, loose insanity of The Fucking French!, the album's quick, jarring sludge-noise coats our throats and runs a rusty ribbon of malevolence through these thirty-seven minutes. The lead track slows to a cautious bass drip and guitars peter about in search of an unlocked door. Once the fuzz is unveiled, it runs a sweep across everything and leaves behind a gritty glaze. And Jon Weisnewski's vocal is still fucking pissed. In fact, when he sympathizes with Leatherface behind the repetitive pinch of Southern Hospitality, what's most unsettling is that you're pretty comfortable with the analogy. Swelling and sweating uncontrollably, the track's hardcore moments spiral and spatter, peppered by shrapnel.

Abrupt jingle-jangle guitar violence breaks into dusty Telecaster reflections on The Retard Blues. Akimbo stare at a bloody knife as Nat Damm's drums build toward a ribcage-extraction of light. The track expands beyond its own demons, a sort of cool reprieve from all the mess. The Butthole Surfers told us we'd find freedom inside our heads. Well, look at the carnage the band carves here and tell me where the fuck else you could find it.

Equal Opportunity Asshole is as straightforward as things get, piping a steady engine hum and relishing in your lobotomy. The filthy sludge rhythm is dragged behind guitar chains, and intentions are hardly masked by the band's bloody grin. Don't be fooled by the diminishing aggression on those bass-driven passages; barbed-wire licks return, spitting nails and splitting skin. The irritation on Building A Body is equally as blatant, crunching with rusty bass patches that are unaccompanied by anything but discontent. The song's pendulum swings through shit and sprays it with each passing. Akimbo aren't afraid to get a little weird on your ass, either. The creepy bounce of Weasel Rope juxtaposes the perfectly out-of-place slide guitar. When the fuzz frays at its ends, you're done scratching your head and your neck's back to rubber.

The strongest moment on Live to Crush, however, is the cool, cosmic crumble of Acid Grandma. Cold and icy at the onset, the slow plug through empty winds pairs with stop-start elements and expands toward awesome grinds and churns. There's a somber nugget of sage truth being passed down here, but break open your stitches and let the pain rush in. Is it a return to agony or a metamorphosis into thick-skinned acceptance? Perhaps a bit of both, but what's notable here is the incredible scope demonstrated by a band failing to hit the brakes despite clutching a towel, ready to throw it in and call it a fucking day.

That's what's striking about Live To Crush. This isn't a contractual obligation toss-off played by three worn-out pricks who can't stand each other. There's no fluff or filler, and there's no wet-eyed embrace. Shit, take one look at the liner notes and tell me there's been another band who so succinctly and honestly bid adieu to a fifteen-year haul. Is it better to burn out than fade away? Akimbo state their case pretty strongly. Live To Crush is an achievement in its own right, separate from its status as the swansong of a hard-working, hard-chugging group of hard-living dudes. Enjoy it for what it is: one of year's best.

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