In the Nervous Light Of Monday. Circle Takes The Square at the Middle East, Boston

Circle Takes The Square existing in 2013 wasn’t a concept I was entirely in the circle about. But indeed, they’re still alive and screaming; Their aethereal, inhuman beauty as humans magnified by their rage and conviction as expressed in a dithyramb of post-everything expression, with a semi-operatic flair for all the natural drama of reality to boot. What a great way to spend Veteran’s Day.

Yoinked from invisibleoranges.com

Having to take care of some other business outside, I was unable to catch the openers, being melodic sludge act VYGR (though I did enjoy their set at deafheaven), emoviolence supergroup United Nations -ostensibly associated with members of  Converge, All Pigs Must Die, Thursday, and Pianos Become The Teeth, to name a few – and activist/conscientious (I think that’s what they’d call it?) rapper B. Dolan, from Lovecraft Country, Rhode Island. However, the intensity, well-picked (however imperfect) setlist of Circle Takes The Square and the low price (only $14? Yup) made it all more than worth it.

While the explosively epic “Interview At The Ruins” would have been my first choice for an encore rather than “Non-Objective Portrait of Karma”, which I feel ends with a squeak rather than a poetic whisper, the setlist was overall well chosen. My preference of the outing from this jam session was the better tracks from mathcore/emoviolence leaning As The Roots Undo, including “Kill The Switch” and “In The Nervous Light of Sunday”, that have their oddly catchy sections and brutal vitriol enough to inspire thrashing in the space around you. Despite some people aimlessly shoving any bodies unfortunate enough to meet their arbitrary pinball motions, I feel that any acts of violence committed are justified. One must make a great attempt to be elegant about it, however. This isn’t Hatebreed, people.

Tracks from the new album, Decompositions: Volume One, fell largely flat and overblown, but they were still decent pieces of music by a band playing an art form that has many imposters but few stalwart enough to attempt a pure, if not well-produced, version of screamo. The short and heavy “Spirit Narrative”, the unfocused but promising “Enter By The Narrow Gates”, and the caustic “Singing Vengeance Into Being” were highlights, where the remaining songs were highly reminiscent of GlassJaw’s recent release entitled Coloring Book; they build up throughout the track to an unsatisfying climax, failing to truly live up to the energy it could potentially unleash. A slightly more aggressive version of At The Drive-In would be a good way to describe it.

Taking the natural evolution of a band into weirder territories into consideration, CttS has not made an erroneous step forward. After all, in the 8 years since 2004’s As The Roots Undo, they’ve undergone many molecular reshifts, and human attitudes toward things change, including their view towards what kind of band they were in the past. With that being said, let’s hope that skramz or screamo or post-hardcore or whatever you wish to call it, sticks around for as long as people are too sad to stay within the well-defined limits of punk. Go listen to Optimus Prime and cry about the lack of activity in your favourite genre.

Getting Swung On Once More. Title Fight at the Royale

It is only by some unforseeable providence of [insert your deity] that I managed to get in this show. Having completely spaced on the date, and learning it was sold out, I still went to the venue anyway, because why not? I work up the street from it now anyway. With the help of some friends, I patrolled up and down the line in search of tickets, with a hastily scrawled sign in hand that read “Need 2 Tickets. Whill Pay”, since I and another were joined in struggle. My Anthony Fantano-looking accomplice paid $40, I paid $20, and the Spaniard, who was present at a whim and originally had no designs of attendance, got in for free after waiting just for the sake of having nothing better to do. Fuck that guy.

paniard

 

Look at that self-assured lionesque sneer. Ripe for a sneering back.

The true openers were Slingshot Dakota, but the ‘truer’ opener was a bizarre 4-piece group that went under the name of “Youth Sex Cult” or something like that. I’m not gonna spend all my time google-fu’ing it, because I’m sure it was  a gag put on by the other bands to fill everyone’s dose of “WTF” for the day. The “singer” swayed back and forth like a tree in an evil wind, both hands slightly cupped, containing burning candles, all the while warbling in a tone that begged surreal quality. The bassist plucked an odd rhythm while the guitarist churned out simple but dark riffs, changing them to fit their caprices. An auxiliary member played programmed beats from a laptop computer. All wore black cloths to conceal their heads. It was something between ritualistic drone meanderings and psychedelic leaning rumbles and audio gleams that just smelled of “This is art, man, and we don’t care because we’re taking it as seriously as you are”. At least I hope.

Anyway, Slingshot Dakota, perhaps one of the more unique acts that can claim the Pop-Punk/Melodic Hardcore tag, was a just-married-as-of-the-night-before-the-show duo of some of the cheerier people to take the stage that night. Happy-go-lucky synth lines meld sensibly with drum lines that hearkened to 80’s Hardcore mosh parts and pop-punk trots through bright avenues of positivity.  It was a fascinating sonic experiment, pulled off well by this couple, who are damn adorable, by the way.

Awh. You’re making me not want to mosh ever again and just become a veterinarian.

But no time for that silliness can be found when Cruel Hand is immediately after. And as nice as the band themselves may be, and as unfair as it would be to disparage their fanbase for doing what they do, it must be said that Cruel Hand’s a hard band to enjoy live unless you’re either willing to put yourself in harm’s way just by standing within 3 people of the pit or are by nature a spectator and aren’t a sportive individual. As much as their formula of modern thuggish pit riffs and thrash/old school punk worship has managed to capture the minds of many audiences, I’d be hard pressed to compare seeing them to anything short of No Zodiac on a lazy day. And I haven’t even seen NZ yet, hence why I’m still alive, fool. In all, they did perform well, though I had much more fun even at the Acacia Strain show that nearly cost me my pelvis.

Emotional indie songweavers in The Balance And Composure were a delightful surprise. Not only because they had suffered a van accident on tour and yet were still able to make it along and continue the tour, but because I ended up enjoying their set a lot more than I assumed I would, and even then I was expecting to walk out with something good to say of them. Spacey post-rock atmospheres intertwined with their more rousing post-hardcore passages and lighter-than-air ambiance, with dense textures provided by three guitarists, all equally competent. I’m just confused as to how there were so many pits and stagedivers, but I suppose they were gearing up for Kingston’s heroes awash in tears.

Title Fight is a band that is hard to define not because they’re so anomalous in what they play for want of clarity, but because they can balance the old-school 90s emo sound, post-hardcore, indie, and pop punk on one fine-edged blade of creativity and melody that can unravel before those patient enough to give them a good listen, or rattle nonsensically of lost love and life.

They’re a good band, and very emotional, is what I’m saying. It goes with the territory of the genre, understandably. with lyrical themes oft revolving around death, separation, and the nature of human relationships, it’s hard to stay cold and distant. Balance And Composure opened the road for waterworks onstage, and Jamie Rhoden followed along, ernestly thanking all of the bands for joining them and making the tour possible. I may give a lot of modern indie and emo acts a hard time for seeming contrived in their appeals to my tear ducts, but Title Fight and their ilk seem to be those bands that make me feel that they mean it, and aren’t playing the part for sympathy. the mellow, reflective reverberation of “Head In The Ceiling Fan”, the hardcore tinged gallop of “Symmetry”, the desperate elegiac sting of “27”, it all hit the way it was supposed to; with passion. And somehow nobody managed to get their gear broken or swept away by the ceaseless torrent of bodies on and off of the stage. Doubly amazing. Give them your money.

 

The Pit Is Fucking Alive. Refused and OFF! and The House Of Blues

Let’s just start by giving a big round of applause to everyone who, despite the known presence of secret police in Boston who aim to stop people from having fun, made this night a show to remember. One of the most important Punk tours of the decade no doubt, with a touch of political and social dissent. Spit in the face of authority and let loose.

Starting off the festivities was OFF!, fronted by the legendary Keith Morris, some old balding dreadlocked bastard from bands you’ve never heard of including Black Flag and The Circle Jerks, along with cast-offs from failures like Rocket From The Crypt, Redd Kross, and other stuff no one cares about. All joking aside, this here is a group of seasoned musicians who know what they’re doing. It usually helps your live show when you’re skilled, I hear.

In OFF!’s 45 minute (or hour) long set, I’m pretty sure they actually played almost every song in their two LP/an EP or four discography. This despite the fact that Morris, being an embattled veteran of the Punk scene as well as fairly aged, he’s seen a lot, done a lot, is fed up with a lot, and is unafraid to make a rousing speech the likes of which follower Henry Rollins could have borrowed his style from. These elements come together to make a refreshingly old school sound that’s not dating itself.

Once they hit the stage and began setting up, I was apprehensive as to the energy level, and if my fellow crowd members would be willing to break free of the constraints so flimsily placed by the friendly neighborhood BPD. For the first few songs, there was a curtain of nervousness in the air as Morris and Co. bandied about, letting loose while the audience gazed furtively at itself, hoping that someone would make a move to break the metaphorical ice. It almost goes without saying that high energy Punk Rock goes a long way to bring about the emotional climate for rule-breaking and general not-giving-a-fuck-ness. By the third or fourth song, all pretense was dropped, and the circle pit was it.

In between bombardments by ancient Punk rhythms and seething vitriol, one could catch a glimmer of Morris’ humble nature, and his unwillingness to think himself higher than anyone despite the fact that he’s led a much more interesting life than your average punx. It’s this humility and good nature that leads to fans being able to get pictures and just have a nice chat with the man.

And almost have your face stolen.

About a half an hour before Umeå, Sweden’s own left-wing singer-songwriter gentlemen Refused officially began their set, the crowd began to notice that instead of random rock tunes playing over the stereo as normal, it was some odd low droning ambiance that put a disturbing atmosphere over the venue. It gradually grew louder with every passing minute, and when the time came, the crowd took its position, pointed directly at the stage where a large black curtain was draped over the band as they clandestinely set up. As the drone intensified, it began to resemble a long sustained guitar chord. With time, the ambient sound created a mixture of fear, anticipation, and a sort of battle readiness for the oncoming insanity. Lights over the stage, we realized, were panning ever so slowly down toward the crowd, practcally turning in step with the increasing loudness of the ambiance. As the sound and lights swelled to full realization and the lights overhead dimmed, the crowd could see that the black curtain had REFUSED cut out of it as the light shone through.

The pre-game spectacle seems to be growing into a review of its own, so let’s move on, eh?

The energy from OFF!’s set was great, but as soon as Refused opened with “Worms Of The Senses / Faculties Of The Skull”, the floor became a veritable feeding ground where tooth and claw ruled the scene, and those who could not fight were destroyed in seconds. One thing about this show that was particularly amazing was that not only was everyone into it, but the sheer diversity of people attending who all just got it. There were Metalheads, -Core kids with swoopy hair, old school NxYxHxC looking guys, huge besweatered Hardcore bros with flatbill caps, dyed/bleached punx in leather jackets with skulls on them, you name it. To shout words of protest alongside a smorgasbord of countercultures is truly empowering.

The set was varied enough, considering their discography currently stands at 5 EPs and three LPs.  Though I am disappointed that they don’t play anything off This Just Might Be… The Truth (namely “Pump The Brakes”), their most heavy and straightforward release, I feel as though it ultimately wouldn’t mesh well with the material from The Shape Of Punk To Come and Songs To Fan The Flames Of Discontent, which lean towards a sort of Post-Hardcore/Experimental Rock sound, but have just enough heaviness and hard-hitting aggression to merit their place among the Punk/Hardcore greats of history. From the two-step swing of “Summerholidy vs Punkroutine” to the cannonading lyrical assault of “Refused Are Fucking Dead” (my personal favourite), and the turncoat anthem “Coup D’Etat”, all coupled with vocalist Dennis Lyxzén musing on how prophetic his lyrics of top-down oppression are in hindsight, it was all around a spectacular showcase of how Punk Rock is not just three chords and an angry British or Californian man shouting about the impending police state. Take some notes from the seminal volume Songwriting Tips For Anarchists, by U. Kuhnt, which simply contains the words “OPPRESSORS: FUCK OFF” in large, bold, red print, and listen to some Refused. You’ll be much wiser for it. In the meantime, should Refused repeat this tour, being fully active once again since 1998, and you for any reason missed this, your redemption shall come swift as an assassin’s blade under cover of night.

To whoever lost the shoe pictured at the right, I’m sure it was well worth the small loss. Its silhouette stands out among the appeased horde cheering one of the most important Punk bands of modern times making its return like phoenices from ashes long forgotten, faintly resembling the shape of an axe, which I’ll allow you, the reader, to mark with some obtuse political symbolism. I’m stumped, if you ask me.

Tera Melos are actually pretty good

Invading Mad Pussy, Yo

I feel bad about having written this band off when they opened for Melt Banana, having given them another listen. I almost wish I could say the same about Grass Is Green, but they will serve in Hell for eternity in my mind for their crimes against Indie Rock. This band has properly redeemed itself, and I duly apologize, with self-harming penance scheduled for Leap Day. Part of this is also writing about something that isn’t metal or hardcore related just because, so you’re welcome.

What The Fuck Does It Sound Like?

Mathy, angular guitar pyrotechnics neatly lifted from Post-Hardcore bands like Hot Cross and I Am Alaska and placed atop tumultuous Indie Rock the likes of little known Auto Interiors. Sometime soon I’ll upload all of Auto’s No Frills Halo Flight album to YouTube so you can get a better feel for this comparison. If any of SOPA’s bastard offspring mutates successfully into a freedom destroying entity hellbent on stifling fun on the internet, then tough luck. They also have tinges of Jazz, raucus Hardcore Punk, Noise, and just straight up effect drenched sections from OUTER SPACE that make this unsafe to listen to while on LSD.

And Why The Fuck Should I Care?

You skeptical loony. Are you retarded? Did you reeeead the description above? This is like… art, man. All that pretentious Needle Drop on roids stuff aside, this is —pardon the cliché— probably something you’ll listen to and say “WOW! That’s unique”, because it kinda is. Yes, there are probably a lot of other bands making similar noise, but Tera Melos is here doing it right. Not too much polish, yet they show that they can keep a good melody or groove in between shooting you to hyperspace.

And that’s all I got for you. Were you disappointed? So was I. Until then, just listen to this until I decide I’ve found something worthy of writing about, eh?