Adam Harding is good with Lou Barlow and Murph, but, strangely, he’s even better on his own, the flip side drumming up a squealing, lip-splitting punk ruckus (featuring, oddly, Chad Matheny from Emperor X) and a wonderful Sebadoh-ism of a Smog cover. I’m getting ahead of myself though — let’s start with the title track featuring Lou-Bar and Murph-y Brizown.
Like so many Dinosaur Jr. songs, “Strange Beauty” doesn’t get good nor crunchy until the chorus. Once you’re there, however, prepare to get OWNed by a Melvins-heavy — and I don’t say that lightly, ever — riff and harmonies I wouldn’t kick out of bed once the woozy distortion fades. It sucks more modern bands can’t hit the spot like this, and let me tell you, they try. They try too hard, mostly, and it ends up sounding like a giant shitstorm, overdressed even in its careful imitation of what many 20-dumpthings can only pretend to understand (I know there are those of you who get it; relax).
“Pure Reason” is my favorite thing here because it’s obviously a piss-take of sorts, and I, for some damn reason, go for these every time. Most bands are at their best when they unload a metric-ton of personal sewage while the engineer takes a smoke break (hoodie over head, cupping his hands over the tip as he lights up skillfully in the erratic wind).
Shit, why not make a whole album like this, you know? It’s like punk-rock is a chew toy and Harding/Matheny are red-eyed, rabies-having, balls-biting dobermans with a taste for MEAT, baby. Remember those old Beastie Boys semi-hardcore jams? Remember Dead Fucking Last? Remember The Germs? Bad Brains ringing any bells at the moment?
I never dipped into much Smog-speak — still might, still will, you know the drill — but I like what Harding does with “Somewhere in the Night,” turning it from whatever it was into a tambourine-led acoustic psych-blanket beach anthem that just plain works. Lovely vocals twist and swirl through the speakers while the bass-dominated instrumentation — treble is completely ignored throughout — plugs away via the K.I.S.S. formula.
Let this not be another artist who sends me a 7-inch then fades from view … Oh, and Harding’s also a filmmaker. Whoooeee!!!