Oh, no. Bloc Party was certainly not the first, but the band sure made it easier for ¡Forward, Russia! to ignite asses with the type of slashing adrenal-gorging we might have formerly referred to as dance-punk (except that term affixed itself to the part of the brain in charge of groaning and huffs, so it’s in need of a replacement).
A touch less atmospheric than Kele’s band o’ Brits, a jigger less tight in its bass-and-drum interplay but, dare I say, comparatively thrashing and memorable with its six-string riffage, ¡Forward, Russia! also drops in pulsing synths (peep the tender and at times searing “Nineteen”) and familiar but distinctly strong half-flip of a falsetto (both care of Tom Woodhead). And, uh, all the band’s song titles are numbers. (How forward … Russia.)
Having released music on its own Leeds-based label, Dance to the Radio, ¡Forward, Russia! has come up the hard (right?) way — heavily touring and self-peddling singles. At its finest, the quartet is not quite hardcore, but its aggro roots show on the verses of “Thirteen” and the opening shredding of “Fifteen Part 1.” Where you would expect the band to fall short in its restrained, aw-shucks moments such as “Sixteen,” ¡Forward, Russia! actually succeeds in melting together the voices of Woodhead and drummer Katie Nicholls in a manner that never feels like you’re taking a break from the run-with-the-bulls fury of the rest of the record.
But as we trudge through the clipped, terse “Seventeen” and the enormously overwhelming “Fifteen Part 2,” we have to be thankful the group doesn’t venture into gentle ground too often on Give Me a Wall, because the players’ chops are best suited for an attack in full. In other words, don’t stop until you see the whites of their eyes. And don’t bother looking for the whites of their eyes until they’re completely obliterated.