Thursday, March 27, 2014


Here are two reviews recently killed by editors. No, I won't tell you which magazines rejected them. Enjoy!

Texas-based metalcore squad Memphis May Fire have never been the most creative band around. On their last album, 2012’s Challenger, they brought in a pair of guests—Asking Alexandria’s Danny Worsnop and Sleeping With SirensKellin Quinn—whose powerful personalities only served to make their hosts seem faceless by comparison. For Unconditional, the band have kept the same producer (Cameron Mitchell) as on Challenger, but there are no ringers this time; they’re standing or falling on their own merits. And while that’s admirable, it would have been wise of them to write better songs. Chugging riffs, pop-punkish choruses, gang vocals, digital stuttering, one-finger synth melodies—all the ingredients for a circa-2014 metalcore album are here, including drums so hilariously triggered it’s amazing they keep the drummer on the payroll at all. But here’s the thing: for a piece of music to qualify as a song rather than just a loose pile of sort-of-cool parts, it’s got to stick in your head once it’s over. There’s exactly one track here that passes that test with flying colors: “Possibilities” rides a wave of positive energy and catchiness, with more than enough melody to keep a listener interested. (And OK, “The Answer” has a pretty solid chorus, too.) On the other hand, the ballads (“Need To Be” and “Speechless”) are a slog, and only Matty MullinsClaudio Sanchez-esque* vocals make the other songs recognizable as the work of Memphis May Fire rather than any one of literally dozens of other bands.

Important Picnic
Do you need a new shambling, half-assed noise-rock album in your life? Or do you already have six thousand of them left over from the '80s and '90s? Well, just in case you feel insufficiently flush with discs offering indecipherably howled vocals, guitar that sounds more like sheet metal being torn apart by robot claws than a musical instrument, minimalist bass lines a one-armed monkey could play, and drums that are all clattering snare and washes of cymbal, Gang Wizard are here to help you out. For nearly two decades, they’ve been bashing out one-take jams that live in a territory somewhere between Les Rallizes Dénudes, Sunburned Hand of the Man, Half Japanese and a teenaged garage band trying and failing to learn a song from Nuggets.
Most of the tracks on this album actually have some song-like qualities, but Gang Wizard are so committed to their half-assed/fidelity-is-for-chumps aesthetic that only those listeners who share their enthusiasm for rock as outsider art are going to be even slightly enticed. For every “Dog’s Share” (a rocking instrumental with plenty of guitar skronk), there’s a “The Fiasco,” an 11-minute fumble-jam that lives up to its name and then some. If there was a “single” on this album, it’d be “Ugly American,” which sounds like a bootleg of an ultra-early Pere Ubu rehearsal. But pretty much everything else here is half-formed, unambitious like that’s a thing to be proud of, and thoroughly inessential.

*Claudio Sanchez = singer for Coheed and Cambria, known for his extremely high-pitched vocals.