I'm catching up on some recent vinyl releases; The Estranged's Static Thoughts has been out for a few weeks, but I've only been spinning it lately. It's a speedy, coherent, lean 'n' mean punk rock record with a bit more brains than brawn. The Estranged are a local Portland band whose members played in a variety of hardcore bands including Remains of the Day; this new trio isn't afraid of melody but still puts their full weight on the gas pedal.
Album opener "No Love" starts off simply, with the band vamping on a single chord, letting the song emerge. "Don't They Know" follows, with a similarly slowburning build-up, before staccato rapid-fire guitar notes, one after another, stack up against a simple synth embellishment. The sound is wiry, fully coiled, and ready to pounce, and over the course of the record, the Estranged indeed pounce. Again and again.
"Nothing to Say" is a personal highlight, where the guitar and bass start to fill up more space in their chordings, sounding like the Who after taking more leapers than they probably should have. "Apparition" is ominously moody, containing a completely legit snarling guitar solo, as does album closer "Valueless Properties," almost verging on becoming epic. As antithetical as it may be to the punk asthetic of no frills get-in, get-out, Static Thoughts is at its best when the band stretches out and just plays; they've stripped down the emo-hardcore of Remains of the Day, which at times got mushy and overly weighty. Now, the music is taut without an ounce of fat, and when this band gets going, it's not so much a cannonball as a ninja star that you never saw coming, but will kill you just as quickly.
The Estranged - "Nothing to Say"
Currently, the Dirtnap Records website says the vinyl is out of stock, but the CD is still available. In the meantime, the Estranged have a couple local dates on the horizon: August 28 at the Know (that's an Alberta Last Thursday) and the bill still shows the Prids are also playing that show... In light of the Prids' recent accident, I don't know if that's right. The Estranged also play Friday August 29 at Backspace.