Late Season Kids
LATE SEASON KIDS
Maturity is poison for rock artistsâ€¦ right?
Rock is youth and madness; the Beatlesâ€™ wild years in Hamburg, Little Richard abusing a piano bug-eyed and sweaty, hunchbacked Johnny Rotten spewing furious bile, Iggy Pop reopening last nightâ€™s wounds with a broken longneck, that idiot Jim Morrison showing off little Mister Mojo Risinâ€™ on stage in Florida, the mudshark incident, the doveâ€™s head incident, the peach truck incident, the Chelsea Hotel, Eddie Cochraneâ€™s beautiful corpse in a twisted snarl of broken wreckageâ€¦ all those wild-cool refutations of morality and mortality that pass into legend and make rock awesomeâ€¦.Right? And â€œmaturityâ€ means bloated concept albums, greed, mediocre solo records, participation in dubious supergroups, and a slow creative suffocation as addiction, family or boredom takes hold. Right?
Well, no. Because if you accept all the above as â€œrock,â€ you have to accept the other side of the coin too; an army of talented and immature grown children all with poor impulse control, suffocating on vomit, shot by fans, shot by their own hand, watching as their friends convulse and die on sidewalks, fathering legions of children unloved and unknown, bringing bathtubs into the recording studio, breaking up by fax, breaking up by hit single, breaking up by certified mail, throwing gargantuan tantrums over green M&Ms, bickering in public over writing credits and creative controlâ€¦ all the tragic, dull, prurient, and tiresome outbursts that stuff the groaning shelves of your average bookstoreâ€™s music section.
And, okay, if U2 or the Rolling Stones construe â€œmaturityâ€ as figuring out how to stamp out a â€œStones Record,â€ a â€œU2 albumâ€ on cue, fine. Often boring, but fine. But thereâ€™s another way.
Maybe itâ€™s because Iâ€™m 35 and no longer plausibly a â€œyoung adultâ€ in any sense of the word â€“ (hell, I just bought a Persian rug and could probably stand to make an appointment with Dr. Coldfinger) but these days Iâ€™d rather hear from artists whose need to compose and perform music doesnâ€™t presuppose a deathwish or a formal profit-sharing and trademark & likeness clause.
Take for example Late Season Kids, the third LP offering from Boston quintet The Beatings. Maybe the album title has something to do with goat husbandry, but maybe instead it has something to do with people whose Doc Martens are older than some of their co-workers; e.g. people like me. Iâ€™m betting on the latter; early midlife crisis is the best explanation for songs which start off with â€œLighten up, kid / Donâ€™t you slit your wrists,â€ or â€œWhen I was young I thought Iâ€™d be dead by twenty-five / But my luck is bad so Iâ€™ve had to live out the last ten years of my life.â€
Who are the Beatings? They are five thirty-ish musicians from Boston and New York who have been making noisy, melodic indie rock together since 1999. Their second full-length release, Holding Onto Hand Grenades (Midriff Records, 2006) was my favorite rock album of that year on the strength of five or six unbelievably great songs that called to mind Mission of Burma, early Sonic Youth, Galaxie 500 and the Pixies. Late Season Kids is more of the same, butâ€¦ better. More concise. More interesting. More, ah, mature.
Long before â€™80s revivalism was all the rage, The Beatings made no bones about their roots in post-punk and first-generation indie rock. Their stock in trade, like those influences, is edgy, scratchy, guitar-driven pop songs that thanks to generous bursts of noise and solid hooks walk the line between clatter and sweetness. Like Galaxie 500, Sonic Youth, and the Pixies, they even have a female bassist; apparently this is largely a Boston phenomenon. But this time, the band have expanded their sonic palette a little to include several aggressive hook-driven songs that recall Bob Mould (of HÃ¼sker DÃ¼ and Sugar), a few epic touches that bring to mind Bruce Springsteen and the Arcade Fire (yes, really), and at certain points the skittish, sketchy guitar and manic vocals of Public Image Ltdâ€™s Keith Levene and John Lydon.
I suppose to compare The Beatings to The Boss is to say that on Late Season Kids The Beatings are more confident, and have edited their songs more thoroughly, than before. The playing and performances are fully thought out, and all the big gestures hit the target. The middle of the album doesnâ€™t sag, and no song sticks around long enough to wear out its welcome. And even if that last bit is very unBoss-like, itâ€™s definitely indicative of a tight and professional group of musicians.
Musical proof of the bandâ€™s new self-assurance is right there in the â€œsha-la-lasâ€ that underpin the chorus on the album-opening â€œNothing Ventured, Nothing Gainedâ€, and in the throat-tearing Black Francis scream and trainwreck ending that ends the same tune â€“ The Beatings follow this up with two more rock-solid songs, the Bob-Mould bittersweet of â€œBury Youâ€ and the world weary â€œYouth Crimes,â€ before slowing down with the measured gait of â€œThe Sleeper is No Fool.â€
Even the songs in the soft middle of the album, where most bands stick their filler, are consistently surprising â€“ suddenly you realize that the kids in â€œAll The Things Your Missingâ€ are dangerously bored, needles are washing up on shore, and menace looms, and lonely-man rant of â€œParts Per Notationâ€ builds and builds into an arresting exultation: â€œI think sheâ€™s taking me homeâ€¦ please God, make her take me home.â€
All in all, Late Season Kids is a better album than The Beatingsâ€™ last one, which was really good. In a just world, it would outsell the latest mediocrities from any dozen Pitchfork-approved artists you could name, and hopefully it will. The Beatings are a band just beginning to hit their stride, and the fact that their latest album is better than their last one in measurable, identifiable ways, suggests that their next record will be their Let it Beâ€¦ the Beatles or Replacements, take your pick.
Built on a Weak Spot
Late Season Kids
I was a bit late to discover The Beatings unfortunately, as my first exposure to the band was their excellent release Holding on to Hand Grenades in â€™06. By that point the band was already on their 5th release. However, their noisier post-punk leanings were certainly pleasing to the ear and pretty much every song hit the ground running that easily got my blood pumping. And now, after dispersing and working on various other projects for the last couple years, The Beatings are back with their next record Late Season Kids which is set to be released through Midriff Records on September 15th.
The album starts off in the typical Beatings barnburner fashion with â€œNothing Ventured, Nothing Gainedâ€, but Late Season Kids as it progresses turns out to be a much more scaled back release for the band displaying a refined sound that taps into the membersâ€™ pop influences more so than relying on heaping amounts of distortion and their taste for playing at a no holds barred pace. While I do sort of miss the anthem like qualities that their previous album possessed, Late Season Kids succeeds fully on songwriting rather than just reaching back and turning the knob up on the amp to get that sort of energy going. Where in the past you could probably pinpoint The Beatings influences (Mission of Burma, Sugar, etc.) to a handful of bands, Late Season Kids takes a big step forward in breaking out of those chains and being able to maintain their own identity as a band. In the end Late Season Kids may not be the sort of rocking affair that youâ€™ve come to expect from the band, however this is certainly their strongest and most well written album to date and burying these songs in a pile of fuzz would have been a disservice to the work they put into them I feel. Good stuff as always from these Bostonians.
Clicky Clicky Music
Late Season Kids
The title to Boston-slash-New York rockers The Beatingsâ€™ sixth full-length evokes the surging success of a pro sports franchise making all the right moves perhaps when least expected. Nearly a decade into the bandâ€™s career (and well into certain membersâ€™ thirties, marriages and parenthood) is an unlikely time to have created its best, most confident record â€” and yet here it is. Late Season Kids is a triumph crafted by a quintet whose tenure is longer than many â€” if not most â€” big-leaguers and rock acts alike.
Although The Beatings continue to calculate the musical mean of noisy indie rock a la Superchunk and Mission of Burma, the band hasnâ€™t been coasting. It recently added the latest in a series of fifth members: Greg Lyon, who fronts and plays guitar for Beatings label mates Pending Disappointment, has been officially dubbed (drubbed?) a Beating. As far as the music is concerned, the band purports to have embraced a more pop direction on this latest collection. This we can confirm, but donâ€™t expect Barry Manilow here. Instead, The Beatings furnish a ready supply of its familiar fist-pumping anthems, such as the four-on-the-floor â€œYouth Crimes,â€ with the fivesomeâ€™s typical noise quotient dialed back somewhat in certain places. The subdued and downright spooky â€œWays And Means,â€ sung by bassist Erin Dalbec, is a taut, but calming deep breath later in the album. The Tony Skalicky-sung closer â€œDreams Of The Wakingâ€ both recalls Versusâ€™/The Godraysâ€™ â€œCrazyâ€ and sounds like the cover closing on a book.
But not everything is toned down. The redemptive caterwaul of co-fronter E.R. drives the album highlight â€œAll The Things Youâ€™ve Been Missingâ€ repeatedly into a chorus built on a scalding baptism of blaring, reverbed guitars. At the break-down he spits lines that recall Lloyd Dobbler dialogue, before spinning the song on its side like a bottle cap into a jabbing, acerbic coda. The following track, the thriller â€œParts-Per Notation,â€ leads with the almost comically understated line â€œI think Iâ€™m going to explodeâ€ (reinforcing the earlier sentiment â€œit takes all of my patience not to lose controlâ€ from â€œYouth Crimesâ€).
On Late Season Kids the band swings for the fences and connects like batters in their prime. The propulsive energy captured within the set â€” but to a lesser extent in the respective side projects fronted by E.R. and Mr. Skalicky â€” suggests that The Beatingsâ€™ secret weapon is the all-business but unflagging rhythm section comprised of Dennis Grabowski and Ms. Dalbec.
Late Season Kids
whoa! where did these guys and one gal come from? let me answer my own question for ya. the beatings are from boston and late season kids is there sixth record, and third full length. im about half way through the 12 song lp and like the evening rigâ€™s is doin stuff, this, at this juncture, is definitely one of the best rock records i have heard this year. where is doin stuff is heavy on the mats influence, late season kids heavily steeped in a lot of what was going on in mid-90â€²s indie rock and the likes of superchunk, sebadoh, polvo, new radiant storm kings, etc. reading this and knowing what you may already know about me, it should then come as no surprise that i dig these guys.
Late Season Kids
The Beatings have been beating out records for nearly a decade. That they havenâ€™t achieved more notoriety is confounding considering the quality evidenced throughout their catalog. Late Season Kids displays all the hallmarks for indie-pop success: short, hook-filled mid-tempo rockers, sturdy lead vocals with ethereal female backups, and just the right amount of noisy guitars to keep it all interesting.
Their raucous moments recall vintage Superchunk, while much of the album evokes Pleased To Meet Me-era Replacements. One of the vocalists is a dead ringer for Arcade Fireâ€™s Win Butler, as heard on â€œNothing Ventured, Nothing Gainedâ€ and â€œYouth Crimes.â€ On song after song, the band members display their collective strength as consummate songwriters. Each tune balances ingenuity with raw pop hooks. Their chemistry is as much responsible for the bandâ€™s success as the musiciansâ€™ individual contributions. The sum of their various parts is an engaging album, surely as likable as anything from indie rockâ€™s marquee names.
Holding on to Hand Grenades
HOLDING ON TO HAND GRENADES
Alert fans of my writing (all six of you) may recall that back in November, I reviewed an EP by the New England-based quintet [sic] The Beatings titled If Not Now, Then When?.
The band are now set to release their second full-length, Holding On To Hand Grenades, later in January, and everything I said about the advance single is true once again. In that piece, I wrote:
It is not damning with faint praise to say that the Beatings remind me of Mission of Burma; only rarely can a band pursue Burmaâ€™s post-punk ideal of brittle soundscapes replete with feedback, scratchy guitars, and dry vocals and have it sound any good. Usually such bands just sound like theyâ€™re ripping off Burma with a little Pixies on the side. But the Beatings have managed the rare trick of appropriating some of the astringent, hyperintelligent sound invented by Mission of Burma but making it sound human, intimate, and alive in a way that Burma never could.
But the Beatings arenâ€™t a tribute band. Although they do wear their influences on their sleeves (touches of Radiohead, Pixies, Sonic Youth, and giant helpings of Husker Du is what Iâ€™m hearing), this is to be expected for a relatively young band working in a close-knit genre looming with giants. It is really, really hard to find your own voice and write original songs (I should knowâ€¦ Iâ€™ve been trying (and failing) for fifteen years), but four(ish) short years into their career, The Beatings sound most likeâ€¦ themselves.
If greater success eludes The Beatings with the release of Hand Grenades then there is no justice in the world. On Hand Grenade the band combine the spiky astringecy of their biggest influences with a deft melodic sense that makes their best songs refreshingly sweet and tart at the same time. Every song on the album is better than those on their previous EP, suggesting that they are growing quickly as songwriters and arrangers.
Like many of the recent generation of indie rock bands, The Beatings thrive on tension. The Pixiesâ€™ signature loud-soft dynamic makes up a large part of their DNA, but they add new dimensions to this by-now routine strategy by adding Sonic Youth-style sheets of noise and by using three singers, one male with a brittle monotone that can burst into melodic (almost-)screaming, one male with a high and thin voice, and an occasional contribution from bassist Erin Dalbec who (in the best Kim Deal/Kim Gordon tradition) acts as a burst of sunshine over the grey-blue musical landscapes.
Guitarists Tony Skalicky and E.R. interweave their turbulent guitar lines over powerful drumming from Dennis Grabowski. All bassist Dalbec has to do with so much going on is add drive and punch to Grabowskiâ€™s drumming; that she is able to add harmonic interest is just icing on the cake. The muscular sound drives the fast songs and keeps the slow ones moving along, and the band create gorgeous textures to go with the turbulent rhythms. I donâ€™t think Iâ€™ve ever heard a band before who could sound like Public Image Ltd. and Galaxie 500 at the same time, but Iâ€™m glad to have had the chance.
Highlights on Holding On To Hand Grenades include the stately and noisy â€œUpstate Flashbacks,â€ the driving hookiness of â€œFeel Good Ending,â€ the chilly resignation of â€œStockholm Syndrome Relapse,â€ and the cute little weird vignettes like â€œOh Shit, My Phaserâ€™s Jammedâ€ and the acoustic â€œHarryâ€™s Wild Ride.â€ The album does peter out a bit toward the end, stumbling with â€œPennsyltuckeyâ€ and â€œVillains,â€ which simply go on too long, and â€œFalse Positive,â€ which mainly suffers for sounding like a couple songs sequenced before it. Still, out of sixteen songs a maximum of three or four could be considered as filler â€“ an impressive ratio by any standard.
Itâ€™s not as if Bostonâ€™s punk tradition needed saving, and itâ€™s not as if The Beatings need their talent affirmed by comparison with the greats of that scene, but itâ€™s true: if ever the world needed an heir to Mission of Burma, Galaxie 500, The Pixies and so on, The Beatings are it, and on their own terms. Holding On To Hand Grenades is an impressively self-assured statement of purpose that should be the Beatingsâ€™ entry to the World of Bigger And Better Things.
Holding on to Hand Grenades
File this one in the â€œDonâ€™t Judge A Book By Itâ€™s Coverâ€ section. Judging by the title of this album, its cover art and song titles like â€œOh Shit, My Phaserâ€™s Jammed,â€ youâ€™d think The Beatings were a third-rate nu-metal band. What a pleasant surprise it was to find out that the Boston-based bandâ€™s second album recalls the dramatic alt.rock of the â€™80s and the jubilant guitars of â€™90s indie rock â€” imagine Ian Curtis fronting Superchunk. While their influences provide a warm familiarity, The Beatings are also fresh enough to avoid sounding exactly like anyone else. By alternating singers (both male and female) and moving between up-tempo songs and brooding numbers, Holding On To Hand Grenades is a surprise treat.
Holding on to Hand Grenades
Theyâ€™ll take your soul if you let them / But donâ€™t you / Let them.â€ That has to be one of my favorite lyrical phrases, bless my 70s soft-spot heart. And though it may seem strange to relate Carole King to a Boston punk/rock band, and stranger still, to a band named the Beatings â€” when all is universal in good songs, and I am strange, it works here. Holding on to Hand Grenades speaks of that common struggle â€” dealing with a chilly world that seems far too bent on scratching the blue from our skies. And though at times we are helpless to find the streaks of black that numb hands leave behind, itâ€™s about resisting the descent into a colorless place. For the Beatings, this resistance emerges less in acoustic folksy murmurs and way more into balls-out, bad-ass screaming. But thatâ€™s different strokes, I guess.
To start, â€œA Responsible Personâ€ paints the everyday burdens that bear weight on our shoulders, yet in its melodic energy, assumes these clouds arenâ€™t so heavy they canâ€™t be lifted: â€œIâ€™m gonna put in my time / tomorrow / Iâ€™m gonna make up my mind / tomorrow / and put myself together / if I can.â€ Though we get to a place where we feel up and ready for change, sometimes a breath or two is necessary. More often still, it seems all too easy to place these hopes within an infinite number of â€œtomorrows.â€ But as the Beatings bring to mind, itâ€™s worth the troubling shot.
True, sometimes what doesnâ€™t kill you only makes you strongerâ€”but what about when it is killing you? As for that idea, â€œThis City Is Killing meâ€ really hits home. At the end of beat-by-the city phrases, we get electric chair-elicited bursts of â€œFight ! Fight! Fight!â€ that sound as if the singer (there are three of them, so your guess is as good as mine) were whipping his throat at the end of a rubber band. In a word: Amazing. Pure fed-up feeling always does well to get the meaning across, and the Beatings have plenty of it.
At points throughout the album, the vocals can get Interpol-ish, but thatâ€™s just a song or two up for skips. As for the rest, things maintain an interesting momentum. For bonus pleasure, there are a few instrumental interludes thrown into the batch: â€œDonâ€™t Flake Nowâ€ has to be the quintessential neurotic phrase we hopefuls spin in our heads, especially when we find someone as charming as these bright acoustic strings and twinkly pianos. Itâ€™s somewhat of an unexpected, blissful minute of quiet beauty among the chaos. (I knew they had a little Carole in â€˜em.)
â€œRemedial Math Rockâ€ brings up the first in-your-silly-face, unrelenting song on the album, and its energy is more than welcomed. This is definitely the Beatings at their best. â€œStockholm Syndrome Relapseâ€ has a weirder, noir-ish vibe, with inserts of girlish whispers from bassist Erin Dalbec that call to mind French prostitutes cooing into rotary phones. While that has its perks, the Beatings are far better when they ante up the psychosis, and their songs come to maddening life. Maybe not so mad at life, just a bit perturbed enough to scream really fucking loud about it.
Holding on to Hand Grenades
Since the late nineties, Bostonâ€™s The Beatings have forged a path of sonically-fueled independent rock, rooted deeply in D.I.Y ethics. On Holding on to Hand Grenades, their second full length and fifth overall release on their own label, Midriff Records, The Beatings, along with the well-respected indie producer Paul Q. Kolderie, continue to create incisively coarse, guitar-driven rock. By dipping into a harmonious post-punk fondue of monotone vocal wails and catchy bottom heavy melodies, The Beatings shine most brightly on the almost radio-friendly â€œUpstate Flashbacks,â€ or on the flipside with the screeching angst of â€œRemedial Math Rock.â€ The Beatings follow in the footsteps of fellow Massachusetts rock legend The Pixies, with a tip of the hat to NYC art noise legend Sonic Youth. Holding on to Hand Grenades, from its instrumental opener â€œIntro to a Responsible Personâ€ to the nearly seven-minute opus of closing track â€œVillains,â€ is yet again proof positive that these three gentleman and one women are proud torch-bearers of Bostonâ€™s underground music scene.
Holding on to Hand Grenades
Itâ€™s not a backhanded compliment to call the Beatings a pure punk throwback. If thereâ€™s nothing on HOTHG that constitutes a great leap forward for a band thatâ€™s already proven its revivalist hardcore chops, itâ€™s still a pretty good record. Less weird than its predecessors (in particular. 2003â€²s flawless HPMA), Holding finds the Boston quartet chugging through a generous hour of melodic, hook-driven power punk. Only a smattering of brief instrumentals hint at the Beatingsâ€™ jokey side, but their noisy egghead leanings are on full, glorious display throughout, especially when bassist Erin Dalbec sings lead on the swagger-heavy Scorched Earth Policy and towering Pennsyltuckey (the albumâ€™s standout track). Cleanly produced and carefully performed, the music on Holding matches the title; you feel the band holding back a bit, as if it wasnâ€™t ready to lob the pineapple just yet. But as a likeable sampling of catchy songcraft, itâ€™ll do until the Beatings feel comfortable enough to pull the pin.
If Not Now, Then When?
IF NOT NOW, THEN WHEN?
If Not Now, Then When?
Ahhhâ€¦ the good old days of Boston. The days when you could stroll down to the Rat and see a full slate of bands, each with their own team colors, play noisy post-rock anthems deep into the Kenmore Square night.
Too bad I wasnâ€™t there. By the time I got to Boston the Rathskellar was long gone and Kenmore Square was undergoing its own miniDisneyfication into Main Street, USA at the hands of developers gone starry-eyed on the fumes of appreciating real estate. Galaxie 500 had bifurcated into Luna and Damon & Naomi (whom you sometimes see around, hi guys!). Mission of Burma (who have since reformed)had flamed out and one of its members was a public television producer. Dinosaur, Jr. had gotten fat, old, and deaf and spun into oblivion. The Pixies were about to get back together (via fax machine, I suppose?) to cash in on their legacy. Fort Apache studios, long the haven and home to whatever the Boston Sound was supposed to be, packed up and moved to a rural river town in Vermont. Boston still has a scene, but most of the bands that come out of it fail to move me like a hometown band should.
But now thereâ€™s the Beatings coming across my radar. Produced by Paul Q. Kolderie and engineered by Boston stalwart Tim Shea (of The Black Helicopter), the Beatings have a new five-song EP, If Not Now, Then When? that does move me, right down to the bottom of my aging, curmudgeonly, candy apple grey heart
It is not damning with faint praise to say that the Beatings remind me of Mission of Burma; only rarely can a band pursue Burmaâ€™s post-punk ideal of brittle soundscapes replete with feedback, scratchy guitars, and dry vocals and have it sound any good; usually such bands just sound like theyâ€™re ripping off Burma with a little Pixies on the side. But the Beatings have managed the rare trick of appropriating some of the astringent, hyperintelligent sound invented by Mission of Burma but making it sound human, intimate, and alive in a way that Burma never could.
But the Beatings arenâ€™t a tribute band. Although they do wear their influences on their sleeves (touches of Radiohead, Pixies, Sonic Youth, and giant helpings of Husker Du are what Iâ€™m hearing), this is to be expected for a relatively young band working in a close-knit genre looming with giants. It is really, really hard to find your own voice and write original songs (I should knowâ€¦ Iâ€™ve been trying (and failing) for fifteen years), but four(ish) short years into their career, The Beatings sound most likeâ€¦ themselves.
If Not Now, Then When? features five tracks (two from their upcoming album, two outtakes, and the eponymous single) that are for the most part lovely, demanding, and richly textured. The Beatings are at their best on the album cuts: the headspinningly noisy â€œFeel Good Endingâ€ and â€œStockholm Syndrome Relapse,â€ each of which manage the trick of being simultaneously moody, catchy, and new-sounding. The two outtakes are outtake-worthy, neither great nor disposable, which is a lot more than I could say for most single-padding material Iâ€™ve heard.
The most interesting song, anthropologically speaking, is the title track â€œIf Not Now, Then When?â€ A longtime live staple, it is a soft-loud raveup in the tradition of the Pixies complete with screaming vocals and dissonant guitars . Although decent enough, it is mainly valuable for showing how far the band have come in getting the arty-indie-edgy-for-edgyâ€™s-sake thing out of their system.
Given that the newest songs on If Not Now, Then When? are the best, I await this winterâ€™s release of their new full length(tentatively titled Holding On To Hand Grenades with â€˜bated breath. These kids could soon be really, really great.
If Not Now, Then When?
It really sucks when a band sends you a copy of their new record and you somehow misplace it in your office (which, in your defense, also contains almost 2000 other CD mailers). It sucks even more when the band cheerfully sends you another copy of the record, and you lose that one too. And it really, seriously uber-sucks when you finally give up on physical media, download MP3s of the record, crank â€˜em up in the car on the way to work and realize that you absolutely love the record â€” and that you really should have spent the last few months telling people about it.
Well, better safe than sorry.
The record in question, obviously, is If Not Now, Then When? â€” a ferocious five-song barrage thatâ€™ll take you back to the days when â€œpost-punkâ€ was an era, not a record store section. Remember how magical it was twenty-odd years ago, when the first few punk bands climbed unsteadily out of the three-chord primordial soup, discovered more complex songwriting techniques and ultimately revived an ancient art known as â€œsingingâ€? The Beatings donâ€™t seem old enough to remember that heady era, but itâ€™s clear that someone raised them right â€” that, or they studied like mad. Whatever its source, their knowledge pays off big time in rip-roaring opener â€œFeel Good Endingâ€: itâ€™s the best song Husker Du and Mission of Burma never wrote. For a measure or two, the stabbing lead guitar line hints at minor key doom â€˜nâ€™ gloom, but that mood is quickly dispelled by a rollicking, ramshackle melody, full of subtle melodic shifts and deep-running currents. Drummer Dennis Grabowski pummels his kit like a Mega-Millions lottery winner who feels like flaunting his riches and has just been informed that crash cymbal hits cost ten bucks each. The vocalist â€” guitarists Tony Skalicky and Eldridge Rodriguez both sing, but Iâ€™m guessing this is Skalicky â€” barrels through his lyrics with sardonic glee, slamming into his couplets with a sort of wide-eyed melodic fury. This is the sort of song that makes previously non-musical people buy guitars and drum kits and give that â€œrockâ€ thing a go.
â€œStockholm Syndrome Relapseâ€ is an entirely different animal. If the title alone isnâ€™t enough to hook you (kids, look it up!), the moody midtempo groove and subtle string accents should do the trick, Those falsetto vocals may be a hard sell, but Erin Dalbecâ€™s sexy whispers balance the equation. People who want to hear a little Interpol in the chorus will do so â€” let them â€” but when Dalbec joins in later in the song, the effect is more Pixies than Paul Banksâ€¦ thank heaven.
At first, â€œPretty Facesâ€ shows signs of being the EPâ€™s dud, settling into a comfortable, borderline-pastoral guitar figure. Then, perhaps a minute in, Grabowski jacks up the tempo; suddenly the song is much faster than it needs to be, unlessâ€¦ Yep, something else is coming â€” a noisy, billowing electric counterpoint that shoots its tendrils off in every direction. From there, â€œPretty Facesâ€ effectively dissects the slow/quick/slow and loud/quiet/loud dynamics, first flowing energetically into each line, then ebbing again in time for the punctuation, leaving little noisy bits of sonic flotsam swirling through the mix.
By the time you reach â€œAll Dead Heroesâ€, youâ€™ll wonder if the band is deliberately fucking with your expectations, The songâ€™s harrowing forty-second percussion intro/classic rock lead-in all but promises an over-caffeinated â€œBela Lugosiâ€™s Deadâ€, but delivers a pop anthem in its place. Itâ€™s a noisy pop anthem, and Grabowski gets his usual kit-punishing workout, but you wonâ€™t be over your skis here unless youâ€™re scared of ride cymbal.
The EP closes with its title track, a previously unrecorded staple of the Beatingsâ€™ live set, and a timely reminder of how much the group has evolved. Once you get beyond the introâ€™s comparatively simplistic melody and unexpectedly venomous lyrics, youâ€™ll be tossed into a caustic, blustery pop song. Even here, the bandâ€™s fierce energy and melodic sensibilities shine through, but itâ€™s a rougher package, tarted up with reverb and screamy vocals.
Of course, thereâ€™s nothing wrong with cutting loose â€” and even at their most overtly earnest and youthful, The Beatings never sink to abrasive emo-isms â€” but when the EPâ€™s other songs achieve such a stylish mix of polish and passion, itâ€™s hard not to perceive â€œIf Not Now, Then When?â€ as a lesser work. Youâ€™ll want to focus on â€œFeel Good Endingâ€, â€œStockholm Syndrome Relapseâ€ and the others â€” they embrace post-punkâ€™s exploratory zeal without getting wrapped up in the handful of buzz-traits that helped transform it into a trendy cipher. You may not hear If Not Now, Then When in your favorite nightclub or overpriced clothing store, but youâ€™ll hear it on your stereo two years from now, when the cut-out bins are full of Bravery and Bloc Party CDs.
Iâ€™m going to end this review by giving you the message I canâ€™t give to my six-months-ago self: get off your ass and find this EP now. The Beatings are prepping a full-length for late this year/early next year, and if it fulfills If Not Nowâ€™s promise, youâ€™re going to be hearing a lot more about them. Why not get there first?
Epilogue: Two days after writing this review, I found the CD.
If Not Now, Then When?
For those of you whoâ€™ve been asleep for the last two years, weâ€™d like to confirm: the 80s are back. And we donâ€™t mean the shoulder-padded Spandau Ballet variety â€“ it seems we were only ever one Pixies reunion and a Gang Of Four revival away from the wholesale resurrection of the Alternative 80s all along. So, with regards to The Beatings, weâ€™ll get those nods to the Pixies and their ilk out of the way early, if only because itâ€™s not quite fair and not quite accurate.
Bostonâ€™s The Beatings, as opposed to the punky UK band of the same name, are the real deal (as opposed to the real Deal), having been ploughing this discordant alt noise-pop furrow for a fair few years. Theyâ€™re not the bandwagon-jumping Johnny-come-latelys you might have pegged them for. If Not Now, Then When?, the bandâ€™s latest self-released offering on their Midriff Records label, is a 5-track prelude to forthcoming second album, Holding On To Handgrenades, scheduled for early next year.
Opener â€œFeel Good Endingâ€ is a take-no-prisoners turbo-charged stomp-rocker, and catchy as hell with it, that blasts its way to a climactic drum frenzy. â€œStockholm Syndrome Relapseâ€, the other cut from the new album, starts off seductively with a breathy, whispered female vocal and laid-back bass groove, before breaking out into an assured shouty dirge-fest.
Perhaps the most alt-radio-friendly of the tracks, â€œAll Dead Heroesâ€ is exactly the kind of thing thatâ€™ll have the Kids in a froth of cider-and-black induced pogoing down the local indie disco. Rammed full of jaunty upbeat bass hooks, itâ€™s all that your correspondent can do to stop himself grabbing a pair of Converse and hitting the town.
The EPâ€™s title track, either the weakest or least accessible (depending on how you see it) of the five, while a decent piece of angsty scream-rock, fails to hit the spot in quite the same way. Still, at a 4/5 hit-rate, The Beatings are well above the International Meatloaf Threshold Of Acceptability of 66% (â€œTwo Out Of Three Ainâ€™t Badâ€, natch).
In the case of If Not Now, Then When?, take some advice: if you canâ€™t take a Beating, you might need a hammering. You heard.
If Not Now, Then When?
Donâ€™t worry, the Beatings arenâ€™t half as ruthless as their name might imply. This doesnâ€™t mean that they donâ€™t know how to kick up a racket and create daring excursions in noise that send their guitars into swirling love-damaged dream-rock. Whatâ€™s truly amazing is how they manage to make their patented brand of emotional catharsis sound so restrained and downright controlled. Obviously, theyâ€™re not the first band to utilize feedback and overdrive as an instrument, let alone the first band from Boston to take a crack at this approach (Pixies and Mission of Burma spring to mind), but very few other bands are able to tame this beast in such a natural and effortless sounding way. Thereâ€™s no reason to question their intentions as they grab a melody and run with it with such enthusiasm that everything else, from squabbling guitar runs, strained vocals, moaning note bends, and delicate whispers, all fall right into place.
The only complaint is how short this release is. Even that issue is quickly addressed: this five-song EP is designed to whet our pallet before the full-length. Two songs on the EP are from the forthcoming album, two are outtakes, and the title track, â€œIf Not Now, Then When?â€ is a previously unreleased staple of their live set. If Not Now, Then When? kicks off with a forward charging rocker, â€œFeel Good Endingâ€ that gets the blood pumping in a way any proper album opener should. The euphoric rush of the deliberate and dedicated rhythm section give non-stop momentum to the crunching jangle and chaotic guitar work, that itâ€™s nearly impossible to tell where the Beatings will be headed next. What they do is head into an ethereal violin and chant number, â€œStockholm Syndrome Relapse,â€ that showcases the delicately unhinged vocals of Erin Dalbec and results in sounding like a My Bloody Valentine song thatâ€™s been dug out from under thirty overdubs. The rest of the songs fall some where in-between the styles of these two stand-out tracks; dreamy melodies, soaring guitar-noise, art rock perfection.
â€” Denez McAdoo
The Noise Boston
If Not Now, Then When?
This EP grows on the brain like a fungus; slowly, but pervasively working its way into your synapses. It would help if the CD had instructions ala the Stones Let it Bleed, roughly paraphrased: â€œThis record should be played REALLY FUCKING LOUD.â€
â€œFeel Good Endingâ€ opens the disc like the bastard child of Volcano Suns and Versus, a relentless driving force that captures The Beatingsâ€™ live energy. â€œStockholm Syndrome Relapseâ€ easily a candidate for local song of the year, is a brilliant, smoldering study in slowly building (not so) quiet intensity, and the best track here. Fans of the Verlaine/Lloyd school of guitar interfacing will thoroughly enjoy â€œPretty Facesâ€. â€œAll Dead Heroesâ€ starts off sounding like the ghost of a lost track off of Joy Divisionâ€™s posthumous â€œStillâ€ before settling into a dark, catchy groove. The title track, part schoolyard-rhyme ditty and aggro-screamer with wonderfully charming lyrical matter, closes the CD. Kudos to engineer Tim Shea and producer Paul Kolderie for the warm, thick tones that jump out of the speakers (again, the louder this is played, the better).
â€” Chris Pearson
Bostonâ€™s Weekly Dig
If Not Now, Then When?
Itâ€™s a specific breed of monster that plays in a band with a name like The Beatingsâ€¦The Beatings have no such trouble with incongruity, as Eldridge Rodriguez, Tony Skalicky, Erin Dalbec and Dennis Grabowski have been abusing and defiling Bostoniansâ€™ eardrums for years now. Their 2002 full-length, Italiano, garnered pole-smoking from the Village Voice to the Washington Post, and everybody in between. This record, a loud 22-minute EP, is meant to satiate the rabid massesâ€™ clamor for fresh Beatings, while final preparations are made for a winter 2005 LP. If their latest, If Not Now, When?, is any indication, winter canâ€™t get here quickly enough. The Beatings come out swinging, with Rodriguez snarling, â€œWhen the money runs out and the sun comes out, thatâ€™s when the guns come outâ€ over driving guitar riffs and machine-gun drumrolls on â€œFeel Good Ending.â€ â€œPretty Facesâ€ and â€œAll Dead Heroesâ€ are similarly righteous, while the title track, a longtime live staple, is a terrific fuck-you anthem. Thereâ€™s nothing contrived or gimmicky about this band or their music; itâ€™s honest, unpretentious and all-too rare.
â€” Paul McMorrow
The Heart, the Product, the Machine and the Asshole
THE HEART, THE PRODUCT, THE MACHINE AND THE ASSHOLE
The Heart, the Product…
Those of us with Bostalgia canâ€™t help but hear the Beatings and recall the days when female bass players roamed every stage, when J Mascis was the man to plunder and when the road to glory ran through Fort Apache. The tagline above the latest from these contemporary Boston darlings is â€œLoud Frantic Quartet Takes Horse Tranquilizersâ€, and the sound-bite version of the subsequent news item reads: â€œSilkworm Tupeloâ€. Only the jokey â€œTransvestite Barâ€ fails to intrigue, and even it offers a fantastic organ sway. The bandâ€™s recipe (few changes plus screaming finale equals song) grates a tad, but the bummercore â€œThese Will Be the Old Days Somedayâ€ is thankfully spared. The Beatings are one ingredient (stronger production) away from continental potential.
â€” William Bowers
The Heart, the Product…
Any indie rock band calling Boston, MA home home inevitably has Pixies dust pumping through its veins. The Beatings have never been an exception, until nowâ€¦building on the post-punk framework, The Beatings have since grown exponentially, honing their songwriting skills to razor sharpness. â€˜Transvestite Barâ€™ is a definite highlight and the bandâ€™s most daring composition to date. A simple banjo and organ begin the seven-minute journey through a late â€œwhen the bars are closed/ and I canâ€™t get to sleep in my pantyhose.â€ The song slowly fades beneath guitars and a baritone backup chorus, perfectly placing the listenerâ€™s mind in the bar with the band. The final two songs, however, hit the hardest. The amazing â€˜Sick Dayâ€™ sounds like a rough-around-the-edges Interpol; the two-and-a-half minutes of whirling guitars and intense shouted vocals will bring shivers. Closing things out is â€œThese Will Be the Old Days Someday,â€ a somber heartbreaker and the perfect autumnal end to a unique (and far too short) record. â€œAs the sceneries change, you remain the sameâ€ is one haunting lyric. The Beatings, however, have changed. This is a very good thing.
â€” Michael Wehunt
All Music Guide
The Heart, the Product…
Previously dubbed scream rock, post-punk, and noise pop as evidenced by their 2001 demo EP 6Hz and 2002â€²s Italiano, Bostonâ€™s the Beatings add slowcore to their repertoire with the advent of The Heart, the Product, the Machine and the Asshole. With their deep warbles and sluggish axes, lead singers and guitarists Tony Skalicky and Eldridge Rodriguez recall Idaho on the commanding opener, â€œAmerican Standard,â€ and a twang-tinged exercise in desperation known as â€œOrgan Donor Regrets.â€ The whispering intricacies of â€œThese Will Be the Old Days Somedayâ€ make the midtempo â€œThis Yearâ€ â€” sung by bassist Erin Dalbec â€” seem downright rollicking. But without question, itâ€™s the clever, cross-dressing lament â€œTransvestite Barâ€ that steals the show on an EP that finds the Beatings punching through another rock style with mad skills.
â€”John D. Luerssen
The Heart, the Product…
This scrappy Boston quartet returns with a fistful of mid-tempo tunes and barroom laments masquerading as an EP. At over 30 minutes, The Heart, the Product, the Machine and the Asshole (reportedly named after the respective membersâ€™ nicknames) is a meaty effort that departs a bit from the melodic noise-rock of last yearâ€™s Italiano, but manages to make an impression in its own right. Though it falls short of showcasing what theyâ€™re truly capable of, The Heartâ€¦ has a restrained confidence that belies The Beatingsâ€™ vigorous live act. The lyrics are top notch, slathering mildly sarcastic anger over spare sentiments, and the performances are typically impassioned but never fussed-over. The EP exudes a stuffy-nosed calm before the storm (bristling with kinetic energy), and may end up being the most subdued of the bandâ€™s efforts.
â€œThis Yearâ€ features rubbery electric guitars and â€œSick Dayâ€ (which starts with someone taking a piss) probably owns in concert, with Eldrige Rodriguezâ€™s Frank Black-in-a-bottle vocals floating over echoey gits. Still, the EP is a step in a subtler direction. Their noisier tendencies in check, The Heartâ€¦ ends with â€œThese Will Be Old Days Someday,â€ which has a late-Saturday-and-youâ€™re-finally-sober feel, avoiding indulgent indie melancholy with patient but insistent notes and matter-of-fact vocals. Maybe itâ€™s the quickie mi-fi production, or the dearth of out-and-out bruisers, but The Heartâ€¦ sounds like a band maturing into something unmistakably more diverse and heartfelt.
â€” John Wenzel
Delusions of Adequacy
The Heart, the Product…
Get this CD and put it in your car stereo, drive around alone, sing along really loud. Put it on while you get ready for the big date. Getting home way too blasted in the early morning? No problem, try The Beatings while you stare at the spinning ceiling. If you just got dumped, pour another whiskey, and crank the last song, â€œThese Days Will Be the Old Days Someday.â€
The Beatings are the real deal, making the kind of uninhibited songwriting and performing that bands struggle for, but few ever actually achieve. If they canâ€™t hit the notes, they shout them out anyway. The playing is unselfish and deceptively basic, traditional, but not to the extent of being uncreative. They have big swaying anthems (â€œSick Dayâ€), quirky, sharp pop (â€œThis Yearâ€), and even dark, disturbing laments (â€œOrgan Donor Regretsâ€) that would make Billy Childish proud. Thereâ€™s some winking and shrugging when they scream about how â€œthe transvestite bar got the best of them (me),â€ but then again, maybe thereâ€™s not.
Hereâ€™s a brief description of the music itself . . . Throughout the six songs here, the ingredients rarely (though they do on occasion) stray from the standard garage band set up. Thereâ€™s dirty guitars, a thick, quarter note-happy bass, and a hard hit drum kit that letâ€™s you know what part of your body to nod, tap, or shake. The voice that most often comes through is a bassy, though surprisingly expressive instrument, something that calls to a more vocally talented Calvin Johnson. This is the easy defining characteristic for The Beatings. Theyâ€™re also fond of the â€œthree chords and the truthâ€ approach, but are no means limited to it. â€œTransvestite Bar,â€ a seven-minute trek through the geography of a very strange evening, sports a banjo and organ, giving something of a rootsy melancholy to its minor meanderings, while â€œSick Day,â€ lead by the voice of the female bass player, offers up a welcome break about half way through the somewhat gloomy EP.
About the only negative thing that could be said about the record is that the opener, â€œAmerican Standard,â€ is a more sullen, slowed-down theft of Pavementâ€™s famous â€œSummer Babe,â€ and the closer, maybe the favorite off the whole disk, â€œThese Will Be the Old Days Someday,â€ appears to be heavily influenced by the sad and sweet tunefulness of Modest Mouseâ€™s earlier work. Even this though is easily overlooked because of the personal stamp The Beatings put on the songs, and after a few listens, the comparisons fall off the back of the truck. This is one of the best finds in a long time. Check them out.
â€” Hutch Hill
Bostonâ€™s Weekly Dig
The Heart, the Product…
This follow-up to the Beatingsâ€™ superb 2001 debut Italiano delivers more driving post-rock. The male vocals switch from low monotones over angular guitar lines to a frenzied shriek a la Pixies-era Frank Black. Adding a female element to the vocal mix, bassist Erin Dalbec leads â€œThis Year,â€ a track reminiscent of Kelly Green and the late great PEE. Personally, I canâ€™t get enough of that male/female combo on the mic. The must-hear â€œTransvestite Barâ€ careens over seven minutes, a jumble of tongue-in-cheek lyrics anchored by the chorus: â€œWhen itâ€™s late at night the bars are closed/and I canâ€™t go to sleep in my pantyhose/transvestite barâ€™s got the best of me.â€ Building to a larynx-ripping scream over a basso â€œman chorusâ€ (thatâ€™s what itâ€™s called in the liner notes), the song ends in a golden wash of organ. In six songs, this EP covers a wide range indicative of the Beatingsâ€™ many influences, culminating in an utterly original talent.
â€” Scott Sand
Italianoâ€œAt its highest level, rock and roll has a visceral energy matched by intellectual prowess. This is rock as art and not just fun. The Beatings, a four-piece band that calls both Brooklyn and Boston home, seems to hit this highest standard on its recently released CD â€œItaliano.â€ Hard-rocking it has less in common with todayâ€™s indie bands than it does with groups like Husker Du and the Ass Ponys. Which means itâ€™s a
band that seems unconcerned with trying to fit into a certain niche and focuses instead on creating a riveting, propulsive and ever-changing sound.â€
â€” Joe Heim
â€œDefinitely one of the best CDs I got to hear in a while. I heard these guys and girl on Bostonâ€™s 89.3 on the way to work and
forgot the named of the band. Needless to say, I hear this rocking-out song (â€œTwinsâ€) with this repeating guitar squelching noise, and I was more than psyched. The song has that catchiness accompanied by an embracing noise, sort of like Husker Du or Superchunk. That song alone has the
ability to make you just go and grab your guitar (air or otherwise) and jam along, and it only gets better from there. â€œNew Destroyerâ€ is a truly depressing song, but you canâ€™t help but bob your head to it. â€œAddicted to Freaksâ€ brings the rock back with a great singing/screaming duet.
Musically, The Beatings change direction multiple times, but thereâ€™s a real sense of character to the music that keeps welcoming you back. You can call it â€œpostpunkâ€, you can call it â€œaggro, indie rockâ€, hell, call it whatever you want. Just make sure the word â€œgreatâ€ is in there. Italiano is a keeper.â€
â€” Dana Morse
â€œThese guys (and girl) fucking rock! But then again, Iâ€™m a sucker for anything Mission of Burma/Husker Du/Pixies-inspired. Their recently released full-length, Italiano, is their best effort yet, and leaves no question as to whether the future looks bright for this Boston four-piece â€” it could be blinding. Request â€œHeavy Metalâ€ â€” itâ€™ll knock your socks off.â€
â€” Ken Switzer
â€œBy design as much as by chance, the Beatings have made a chaotic recording in the spirit of post-punk Minnesota outfits. It begins, surprisingly, over tinkling keyboards, as bassist/vocalist Erin Dalbec introduces the band who might at this very minute be wrecking a club in your home town. The sweetness ends with â€œTwinsâ€, a Bob Mould song in all but name, and then the band hits its peak. â€œHow Many Times Can
You Say Goodbye to the Same Person?â€ is an immediate classic, with screaming pleas, nerve-wracked guitars and a less-than-comforting lyrical strangeness (â€œI thought youâ€™d never leave / The coffin came out and you begged to stayâ€). The actual lyrical content (â€œBig winds blow through empty
cavernsâ€) does not suggest the songâ€™s visceral power, because itâ€™s the groupâ€™s energy that drives everything home. They are as juvenile and reckless as the Replacements (drunk before cops in Stink), with music that will please punkers one moment, emo types the next, and girl group fanatics every time the sweet-voiced Dalbec takes center stage. Though Dalbecâ€™s songs are such an anomaly that they throw me off course, Iâ€™m delighted that her songs arenâ€™t relegated to side projects. The bandâ€™s strongest appeal, in fact, is to always come across as if they are performing
whatever they damn well want. They follow Dalbecâ€™s new wave chic with a dirge (â€œI Donâ€™t Know the Truthâ€) thatâ€™s Joy Division 101, then follow a New Day Rising-like number with a plaintive acoustic track (â€œStock Car Driverâ€™s Lamentâ€). Violins enter â€œRefueling Vehiclesâ€, suggesting the
groupâ€™s odd mix of material has an obscure Mekons influence, and the record ends with frivolity (â€œWow, heavy metal / Torture for my soulâ€) and a heap of screams and pain (â€œBloated and Disabledâ€). If you look to rock for cathartic release, itâ€™s songs like â€œBloatedâ€ (â€œYou try killing
yourself slowlyâ€¦Making it slow so no one can tellâ€) and â€œHow Many Timesâ€ that make this disc essential. Aspiring rockers might find the group more vital for proving that you can have inconsequential things to say, yet fool everyone with powerpacked performances and middle-fingered
variations. Now do yourself a favor: see The Beatings in concert and watch them revive the spirit of rock.â€
â€” Theodore Defosse
â€œBostonâ€™s The Beatings have made a lot of noise in their short history. Last yearâ€™s â€œ6hzâ€ EP kicked out the jams with charming
and shaky confidence, garnering comparisons to the Pixies, Guided by Voices and other indie royalty. â€œItalianoâ€ is their first full length, and if itâ€™s any indication of the bandâ€™s future, I would put on some sunglasses. The songs are all over the map in terms of style, but rarely sound derivative. â€œHow Many Times Can You Say Goodbye to the Same Person?â€ ends with clever rhythmic conceit, subtly slowing the Frank Black-esque vocals and loping drums to a snailâ€™s pace by songâ€™s end. â€œNothingâ€ is punk pop at its best, with bassist Erin Dalbec sounding like a lo-fi Veruca Salt or harder-edged Velocity Girl. â€œThe Art of Leavingâ€ is the best mostly-instrumental song Iâ€™ve heard in years, simultaneously intuitive, bittersweet and brooding. Thereâ€™s really nothing you could find to complain about on this album, except that there isnâ€™t more of it. The Beatings are like that friend that everyone should have. Theyâ€™re funny, smart and perpetually in a state of kicking your ass.â€
The Big Takeover
â€œExpecting a punk band and not getting one, here, the first song starts out with a very mellow intro and Michael Stipe-vocals that explode into a noisy rock song that seems more tied to the â€œalternativeâ€ of the early â€™80s than anything that would go with the word â€˜beatings.â€™ The Stipe comparison creeps in a couple more times, bringing back memories of the days when R.E.M. would really rock out, raw and energetic. There are hints of a Yo La Tengo-type noise, and when mellowness hits, it swirls into a dreamy guitar mood, with the vocals just screaming over the slow drive of the rhythm. The CD ends with a very raucous song that carries hints of early Buffalo Tom, but with the vocals almost falling apart, hoarse and broken, but very alive.â€
â€” Marcel Feldmar
â€œEvery so often I seem to get bitch-slapped by a band Iâ€™ve never heard before. Blindly, I stumble around, asking myself, â€œWhy havenâ€™t I heard these guys?â€ So let me ask The Beatings something: What took you fuckers so long? This Boston-based groupâ€™s latest 5-song CD EP 6hz has been kicking my ass up and down for about a month now, and itâ€™s been the most depraved, satisfying month of my life. The Beatings rely on simple, punkish rhythms augmented by manic leads and strained (but inherently melodic) vocals. The melodies, mind you, must be sought after, but when you find them itâ€™s not hard to do it again. This works to a great effect on tracks like â€œBrighter Than Brightâ€ and â€œWring Me Out,â€ the latter showcasing some excellent, inventive guitar work. The best track on the EP, â€œExperimental Test Monkey,â€ would have been a classic power-pop tune in the late 80s. Its fragmented leads, assured drums, and mournful, insistent vocals take hold of your brain harder with each listen, kinda like that Alien pod slowly making its way into your mouth and down your throat. By the time youâ€™ve listened to this CD for a couple weeks, itâ€™s too late. Your stomach is about to explode and get blood all over the inside of the nice clean spaceship walls. Oh well.â€
â€” John Wenzel
â€œHailing from Boston, The Beatingsâ€™ recent disc may be short in quantity â€“ itâ€™s only a five-song EP â€“ but itâ€™s long on punchy, three-chord melodies, variations and nuancesâ€¦ and very similar to The Pixies. Things start off with â€œBrighter Than Brightâ€ and a hopeless intonation of a nasally, â€œall dressed up, showing everywhere youâ€™ve been,â€ that then delves into a thrashing drum accompanied by a weeping guitar and throaty desperation, while manipulating a slight monotonous but pandemonium feel. The Beatings carry the creative thirst throughout the album via tuneful turns, discordant guitar work, and drum and guitar variations a la Doolittle and Surfer Rosa. Adding to the coarseness is â€œNo Glen, Itâ€™s a School Night,â€ with its scratchy lyrics, catchy sing-along-refrains, mild melodic shrieks, and an outspoken bass. After approximately three minutes of silence, the pseudo-end becomes a moving, emotional tune dealing with suppressed feelings exploding into screams. 6hz perpetrates an indie punk reawakening prepared to jolt even the laziest person.â€
â€” Melissa Bergeron
â€œ6 Hzâ€™s first song starts out slowly, and rather like Modest Mouseâ€™s â€œTeeth like Godâ€™s Shoeshineâ€, it gradually evolves into a punk song. It thereby conveys two distinct moods, which is one mood more than your average punk song. Similarly, with one or two arguable exceptions, this EP is a step up from other punk EPs. At its best moments, it seems like a modern version of Pink Floydâ€™s Wish you were Here, as most ofâ€¨the songs are themed around people whoâ€™ve lost their souls in their day-to-day bustle. The album peaks on the third track, â€œShark Attacks are on the Riseâ€, as different psyche-voices intermingle and the instruments pulsate. The Beatings have a good feel for how punk music should sound; whileâ€¨their music is rarely complex, they always manage to change it before it gets boring. It might take you a few listens to understand the lyricsâ€¦but once you do, youâ€™ll see that theyâ€™re as impressive as the music.â€
â€” Josh Kazman
â€œSome heavy names were dropped in trying to get me to listen to this CD, names like Sonic Youth, Husker Du, and The Pixies. Eliteâ€¨enough company to make any self-styled music critic both apprehensive and intrigued. The good news is that The Beatings belong in that elite company, their sound having obvious roots in that fertile, mid-to-late-â€™80s period of what was then called â€œprogressiveâ€ or â€œnewâ€ music (before the term â€œalternative rockâ€ was coined, much less overused to the point of meaninglessness). Even better, the band never sounds dated or derivative â€” despite wearing their influences on their sleeves, thereâ€™s something fresh and new about these six songs. Perhaps itâ€™s because nobodyâ€™s making this kind of music anymore â€” not even the people that were the obvious inspirations â€” but moreover, the band seems really interested in building on the base that the earlier bands provide and taking it to the next level. So call The Beatings the heirs to the throne, and with challenging, dissonent-yet-melodic, and impassioned songs like â€œBrighter Than Bright,â€ â€œExperimental Test Monkey,â€ and â€œWring Me Out,â€ they deserve it. An excellent EP that deserves attention â€” we could use a few more bands like The Beatings in these teen pop-dominated days!â€
â€” Julio Diaz
â€œGreat indie punk, expressed as a mix of Superchunk and the Pixies. Walls of guitar and a twitchy set of male/female vocal leads. Plenty of distortion for all. With vox that seem for the most part like a war is being waged with oneâ€™s larynx (and the larynx isnâ€™t doing too well). At any rate, 6Hz demonstrates that the Beatings have the potential to continue making vital music.â€
â€” Jeremy Salmon
Bostonâ€™sÂ Weekly Dig
â€œThe name is terribly misleading, but the music isnâ€™t. Falling somewhere between Yo La Tengo, Varnaline, Mission of Burma and the much missed Squirrel Bait, The Beatings make space and squall sounds with unexpected sharp turns left of center. The low Viking chorus on â€œShark Attacks Are On The Riseâ€ fits surprisingly well among its open feel. â€œWring Me Outâ€ is my personal favorite of the five songs on thisâ€¨self-released CD, with a beautifully urgent vocal delivery and a nice half time break down. There are no credits anywhere for band members, only a blurry photo under the tray card (so very indie rock!), so I canâ€™t say who does what, except that Bob Logan (Vic Firecracker) has again done justice as engineer on this outing. Hopefully theyâ€™re as good live as they are on this disc.â€
â€” Tim Catz
The Beatings’ recordings are available at Midriff Records.
To contact The Beatings, please email firstname.lastname@example.org