“Like, oh my god. There’s a new Liars album!”
“Why yes, honey, there is. But you’re listening to Chromatics, not Liars.”
Yes kids, it’s true. Liars and Chromatics have fallen under the same tree, kind of like a rotting apple, one that still has a strangely nice flavor. Perhaps there is a tasty worm inside that keeps it flavorful. What exactly is this flavor you speak of?
Both bands, loosely labeled as art punk, have released simpler and rougher albums as follow-ups to their exciting, lively, vaguely danceable debuts. The difference between the two, however, is that Liars’ They Were Wrong, So We Drowned has gotten quite a bit of pessimistic press surrounding its themes of witchery and its nonsensical noise, but Chromatics’ Plaster Hounds has been enthusiastically praised, at least in contrast to 2002’s Chrome Rats vs. Basement Rutz.
Plaster Hounds is a record of minimalism. To the philosopher who examines social settings with great depth, the extremely basic style of the music could be metaphorical for the band itself, which consists of Adam Miller as the sole permanent member, the Get Hustle’s Ron Avila on drums and new bassist Nat Sahlstrom. The band has created an album consisting of one track disguised as ten different ones, and though this repeated track gets a bit tired, it’s a damn interesting piece. The listener is surrounded by a cave of echoing wails as Avila’s pounding dominates the simple and subtle guitar parts. Oh, there’s a bass? So there is.
Chromatics have found a raw, percussion-heavy, insanely lo-fi sound that works for them and defines their New York art-punk image (despite that they’re actually from Seattle), but Plaster Hounds seems a bit less — dare I say it — fun than the band’s 2002 debut. While they’ve found their niche, they have also discovered the art of sounding as though they’ve lost their sanity, their desire to please, and most importantly, their joy and happiness. Somebody needs a drink, and that somebody is vocalist Adam Miller.
This record tests the versatility of late-1960s garage rock and experimental sound, but it manages to swallow the slightest bit of influence until it owns even the spoon from which it was fed. Need an example? The final song is a cover of the Silver Apples’ “Program,” and though it maintains the Silver Apple essence, Chromatics’ version manages to sound far less melodic than the 1968 original and more like every other track on Plaster Hounds. Then again, perhaps personalizing an oldie is what makes a cover successful.
And hey, if they’re going to taste like a rotting apple, they may as well taste like a rotting Silver Apple, right?
I’m not laughing either. But despite the bizarre comparative albums and repetitive sound, Chromatics has placed a good sound in repetition, and this doth a solid album make.