In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that
four songs into this record I was ready to get to the end just so I could trash
it. I was absolutely convinced that one spin would be enough to fully critiqueCity
of Microphones, the latest from New
York-based indie rock band The Exit Strategy.
I also have to admit that I could not have been more wrong.
Whether it was intentional or not, TES?s biggest influence
is early At the Drive-In. All the elements are there: the frantic rhythm
section, the slightly off-kilter guitar lines, sloganeering lyrics delivered in
gang shouts, yelps and whispers and the mid-song tempo shift.
Do not, however, write these guys off as an ATDI clone. TES
certainly wears its influences on its collective sleeve, but by no means do
they rip off ATDI.
Instead, TES takes ATDI?s chaotic sensibilities and plays as
if the band members themselves invented post-hardcore. The conviction heard
here screams, ?Look, Ma, there?s no one like us!? This is both a blessing and a
curse for the Buffalo, N.Y. foursome. On the one hand, post-hardcore is almost
dead, and as such, any band that attempts to resurrect it will be greeted with
claims of originality, if only borrowed. On the other hand, it is incredibly
difficult, even upon first listen ofCity,
to not expect ATDI?s lead singerCedric Bixler-Zavala to pop up somewhere on the disc.
All that aside,
the songwriting onCity is quite sharp throughout the 12 tracks. And not every song is a fast and
frenzied affair. In fact, some of the best songs are the ones in which the band
slows down a bit and actually settles into a groove.
?The First, The
Finest, The Future? is a perfect example. A deliberately repetitious bass line
opens the song, onto which the band adds a guitar line reminiscent of a call to
arms. The drums just bounce along with the bassline, and then singer Mark
Costantino thoughtfully inquires, ?Can you say ?revolution??/ Can you say
?reconstruction??/ Can you say ?society?s crashing??/ Can you say ?a change of
ideas” Whether he is referring to the current political climate or the music
business is anyone?s guess.
That is not to
say that all the best songs are the slow ones, however. Opener ?X-Rays? finds
the band having the most fun on the entire record. The track has all the makings
of a fan favorite: a drumroll to open the song, a simple yet effective riff and
a catchy-as-hell chorus that demands to be shouted along to.
But production is
the best thing about this record. Though it is not indicated in the linear
notes or press release,City sounds like it was recorded live in the studio. The mix gives the album an
immediacy that has been lacking in modern music, and it also gives the listener
the pleasure of being able to hear each instrument in its entirety. There is
space between the instruments!
With ATDI done
for good, and Fugazi done for now, The Exit Strategy have a legitimate chance
to take what seems to be rightfully theirs ? namely, the throne of post-hardcore.
The sound and lyrics allow them to be the leaders of something, to be sure.
Whether it is a riot, a revolution or a resurrection of a dying music genre is
up to them.
41/2 stars out