Saturday, February 7, 2015

Broken Things
Four Songs EP
Self-released, 2014

Originally published at Zero Warning

Back in December I referred to a live performance by local punk band Broken Things as “loud, distorted and deafening.” It speaks to the growing importance of one-of-a-kind live gigs in this age of free downloads that the groups’ Four Songs EP conjures up an almost entirely different feeling. In fact, after listening to this release gradually over the past few months I can comfortably declare that it only makes me more interested in going to see them again, to see how the two experiences work off one another.

Like its Fugazi godparent Thirteen Songs, the EP starts with a wonderful and relaxed instrumental intro. It has just the smallest dash of late nineties emo guitar, quickly papered over with straight punk rock. These instrumental stretches come throughout the record, and without feeling like padding, indicate a band interested in providing more than a background to its lyricism. The songs are allowed to breathe, and it’s clear that although this is Broken Things’ first release, the writers aren’t complete newcomers.

The vocals of Anthony Louis run parallel to the style of the music even if they aren’t desperately filling every moment. Delivered with a deep and sometimes sandpapery texture, the focus of the content is on cautiously optimistic contemplation, particularly about life in a big city. This is most overt on ‘Always Adrift’ and ‘I Can’t Set Back,’ tracks that, like the dimly illuminated building cover art, wrap and bookend the whole of Four Songs in a kind of love letter to urban living. The middle songs, ‘Jayne Mansfield’ and ‘Goring,’ are more metaphorical and storylike, but also acknowledge emotions of melancholy and isolation. It’s a record about nostalgia, yet also weakly-smiling positivity and forward-movement. It’s about movement in general: multiple walking and crashing references fit St. Pete all too well, reflecting herky jerky restlessness in a supposedly burgeoning city.

On the subject of the past and future, it seems appropriate to mention that I once reviewed a demo by the former band of both Louis and Broken Things guitarist, Stewart Nicol. When you learn of the connection to Dead Sound/Steady State it’s impossible not to notice the similarities, in fact I had to be careful not to go repeating the same exact observations and terms as I did 4 years ago (“narrative-driven,” “grufty,” “Leather,” “face”). When writing about the gig a few months ago I even, unawares, compared Broken Things to Dead Sound, which was hilariously (and admirably) not referenced by the band in my second-hand communication with them regarding this EP. There’s a lot going on here in a small space, with controlled scope and real depth to chew on if you give it a chance. There’s also a sense that they still have room to grow and pan out some of the ideas that are being expressed (as you would hope from a debut). Nothing is broken, nothing needs fixing. But let’s hope the next offering shows a willingness to expand their tool kit.

Broken Things will be playing with Against Me! (who I also made comparisons to in the 2010 review) at The Ritz Ybor on February 18th.

Four Songs is available for $4 on bandcamp and the Dead Sound demo piece is available in exchange for asking me nicely.* You can also hear a live track on their Soundcloud page.

* Dead Sound - Monuments To Alienation review

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