Thursday, August 15, 2013

REVIEW: Bare Mutants - The Affliction

I've been hoping for an album from Chicago's Bare Mutants since their wonderful Without You 7", released by Hozac in early 2012.  Consisting of "Without You" and "Inside My Head", it announced the arrival of a band exploring the potential of rock played at a slower tempo, with the dynamics fleshed out by chord changes, garage rock-style organ and baritone lead vocals (supplemented at times with female vocals).  Tension builds over the course of most of the songs, exploding into release with pounding percussion and a wall of sound.  I suppose it isn't for everyone, and it certainly departs from the noisy, hook-filled psyche-rock of frontman Jered Gummere's previous band, The Ponys.  But I liked it from the first listen and, to my ears, The Affliction delivers on the promise I found in the 7".

Genre tagging The Affliction is a slippery business.  There is too much melody and adornment to be drone rock.  With the deep vocals high in the mix and the authoritative guitar and drum lines it doesn't qualify as dream pop in any usual sense (although it may be its own new strain of dream pop).  And a delightful playfulness is evident on several tracks, particularly the bouncy "Nothing is Gold" and "Cunt", both of which present vocal interplay between Jered and Jeanine (O'Toole, of the 1900s).

The album begins with "Without You", presenting a carefully constructed surge of fuzz and percussion.  Similar approaches are found in "Crying With Bob", "I Suck At Life" and "Inside My head", although each track has its individual personality.

Here are the fuzzy delights of the faster-paced "Growing" --

Despite its name, this track has the feel of an old-time country duet.  Album closer "Scars" has a bit of a country feel to my ears as well.

Bare Mutants are Jered on guitar and vocals, Seth on bass, Matt on drums, Leslie on organ, and Jeanine on vocals and percussion.  The Affliction is out now via In The Red.

In The Red Records

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