Saturday, September 10, 2016

XURS Self Titled Album - A Frenetic Exquisite Sledge Hammer Of Sound

Basic rock and roll for the most part has the drummer and bass player cut a deep groove that the other musicians and the singer play in. They move in and out of the groove, may step all over it or lag back, catch up, dance around it but that percussive rhythm is the foundation for it all. Now you take a band like XURS and while there are the deepest of grooves cut, the compositions (for the most part) feel like one solid machine of sound. Sinuous dense sounds that seldom move in a straight line. Progressions shift into uncomfortable places, blistering guitar lines mirror vocal lines and they become one. The songs are less about melody then the tension and atmospheres that feel on edge and even toxic.

Two of the songs on XURS's self titled album have the word "mass" in them. That makes absolute sense. Mass In Descent feature dissonant sounding chords half stepping around while lead vocalist Shane's wide eyed strident performance matches the tilt of the chords. His vocals feel more like the ramblings of that homeless man in the neighborhood who goes off from time to time, "I don't know when the wheels came off."

Giant Mass is even heavier, in fact, super heavy with that same kind of choppy descent into staccato driven chord strikes and stabs. The sound is full on experimental punkish rock. Think of Pere Ubu's 70's art rock blended in with the massive garage power of Metz and the discordant noisy jazz punk rock of The Flying Luttenbachers. The track Entitled is mad but exquisitely beautiful too in the way the guitar lines crazily dance with such headbanging rock precision. I'm Down feels like something a jazz fusion band would come up with after their minds were fried on something.

Often times this kind of cagey proto punkish free form style seems to be embraced by bands that keep the sound bright with some jazz tones too (like Zappa or Captain Beefheart or Rudy De Anda's incarnation Wild Pack of Canaries) but XURS for the most part uses the sledgehammer approach. Sure I'm Dumb is as furious as any Blag Flag song with progressions that change as quickly as a strobe light. The Order of Things also feels right at home in a dark and sweaty punk venue.

When I listened to I Don't Have To I imagined the Sharks and Jets in West Side Story (see below) in an angsty emotional breakdown. And maybe that is the crux of what XURS does. Their songs don't feel like songs as much as hyperbolic artistic explosions of anxiety and afterwards you feel calmer for having experienced all the vented rage.
Robb Donker

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