A duo comprising a drummer and a keyboardist may sound like a recipe for a cheesy disaster. But the Aquarium’s sound is heavy, scuzzy and totally trashy–kind of like if Royal Trux traded Neil Hagerty’s guitar for some vintage keyboards and the band members shook it out on speed instead of smack. Listening to the Aquarium’s self-titled debut, it’s almost hard to believe this much racket can be made by two people.
For an album that has so much of a Dischord pedigree (it was produced by Fugazi’s Brendan Canty and recorded at Inner Ear Studios, another D.C. mainstay), the keyboard- and effects-driven music on The Aquarium is quite a sonic departure from the hardcore and raunchy rock ‘n’ roll that usually characterizes the label. But Laura Harris is a super-heavy drummer, and Jason Hutto not only sings like a madman but also punches his keyboards up to the level of some of the biggest, dirtiest guitar riffs out there. It’s a lethal, catchy combination. And “Can’t Afford to Live Here,” the second of the album’s eleven tracks, contains some of the more striking lyrics to come out in recent memory. That’s a lofty claim, but a title like that sums up the situation of so many twenty- and thirtysomethings that I can’t help but admire Harris and Hutto for not mincing words or the situation. And you can nod your head to it. And sing along. How often do you get a song that’s not only catchy as fuck but wears a shit-eating grin?