September 26, 2006
YOUNG WIDOWS [I]SETTLE DOWN CITY[/I] REVIEW
You could see this coming. You could see it from miles away if you listened closely and or fanatically collected the 7"s and albums from Young Widows previous incarnation as the unapologetically loud and noisy Breather Resist. The last 7" that they released, Full of Tongues, showcased a noisier but less loud sound to go along with their lock tight rhythms. That teaser of a record was a breath of fresh air that showed immense progression during the short, but prolific lifetime of the band. When Breather Resist transformed into Young Widows, the direction, that this new incarnation would take, was a bit of a mystery.
Settle Down City is the result of said transformation. It follows the direction of the Full of Tongues record almost directly. In reality, one of the songs from it ended up in a revamped form on this album; so, the progression is given a concrete bond. This is a superb, noisy album. The production is very Albini-esque, which given the obvious influence of The Jesus Lizard and Shellac on the writing, actually benefits the overall sound of the album. It sounds urgent. It sounds very now.
From the beginning signaled by a dog bark, Settle Down City churns out wonderfully noisy songs that are grating, but infectiously so. The ugly cover art seems to embody or represent the sound well. This is truly the type of album where one needs to experience as a whole: the music, the packaging, and the vocals. Settle Down City comes across as a conversation or book where there are memorable lines but you miss the point or only get part of the picture by listening to individual songs and or skipping around from track to track. The album also demands to be listened to at high volumes. There are little sounds and noises that you miss when the volume is too low.
The title track gives a tantalizing look into what the rest of the album has to offer. The discordant guitars and pounding rhythm propelled by the fuzzed out bass giving way to quiet passages and lulls that allow one to recover from the aural beatings. The simplistic repetition in the vocals does not impede on the sound but augments in a way that I could liken to a town crier from a bygone era. "Settle Down City" seamlessly shifts into "Almost Dead Beat.” The guitar changes MOs enough to really show how angular a riff can be (this opening guitar riff is oddly catchy); the rhythm section is locked in and gives the backdrop that the guitars need to color the track's sound. "Glad He Ate Her" is the song from Full of Tongues (it was originally titled "Stain Sheets"). The music is similar to the original version with changes in the lyrics (while still keeping a line from the original set). It contains one of the loosest guitar riffs ever, and it contrasts nicely with the steady as she goes bass line and drum pattern.
"Small Talk" employs a chunky bass line to hold down the song as the vocalists engage in a call and answer war that inhabits a portion of the track. "Mirrorfucker" is a great song. The slide guitar gives the song a great riff. The main rhythm part is punishing. It has a great groove to it. The female sounding vocals lend an unsettling effect to the song. Young Widows crams a lot of substance into the barely three minutes of the track before it pounds its way into "The Charmers.” This song has another great groove to it. The drums hold down everything as the guitar and bass just go off. There are some off time tempos that the band utilizes in this song. When the guitar and bass drop off for the vocals and drums to come to the forefront, the song reaches a fever like pitch that is accented by short bursts from the silent instruments. "New Forest" is a more laid back track that gives you a chance to settle down after the pace of the preceding two songs. It has this really great, tiny yell in here that makes the song.
"The First Half" is a fast paced track. It has a whirlwind quality to it. The instruments don't stop; they simply glide from part to part without break to keep the frantic feeling going through the end. The chant of "A-I-R" is kind of out there in the effect it has on the song. Settle Down City closes with "We Don't Know." It has a deceptively relaxed feel. It is more of a stewing brood mood. The group chant, from which the song acquires its title, which closes it all out is unnerving and a perfect end.
To be one hundred percent honest, I don't think that there has been a record like this in a while. Settle Down City draws the listener in with great grooves and infectious rhythms. It challenges with gratingly jangled guitars that continually push the envelope of what to expect from where Young Widows left off with their previous incarnation. The vocals act like another instrument that emphasizes musical passages and put the exclamation point on parts of the conversation. I highly recommend this to any fan of the noisier side of music.
9.0 / 10
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