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WALL - "WALL" | Album Review

by Jonathan Bannister (@j_utah)

Concrete walls. Basements. Late nights. Wet alleyways. An older New York before the Giuliani branded brooms took their bristles to the New York streets. This is the sound of New York’s WALL, a new band with a new EP with the first four songs they’ve written. Tight, controlled, no frills post-punk. No using two notes when one will do. No wasted words. It’s music to exercise your body, exercise your mind.

While the streets of New York might present themselves as a littler cleaner, the filth that resides inside us all is still alive and well. The first song "Cuban Cigars" comes out of the speakers like a transmission beamed in from 1981, the opening guitar hits plant you firmly in the setting as you swear they sound like someone specific but you can’t quite place who. That setting sounds like a specific bar populated by men from a specific scene, dressed in a specific way. “They think they’re the mob…playing tough for the day.” Sam York acting as our guide to this scene speaks from a place of authority, both a part of and fed up with what she encounters. She gives voice to those affected by the pigs who are well fed off of fresh baked bread. The band behind her provides a full on dance track. Elizabeth Skadden’s bass and Vanessa Gomez’s drums work in sync to lay down a relentless groove while Vince McClelland’s guitar attack is as pointed as the lyrics. You can’t help but move to it.

"Fit the Part" is a stark tale about the masks and personas one must wear to navigate public life. While the urge to make it universal is strong as this can be an issue we all face, it sounds personal coming from York and specific to the roles women are forced to play. The drain of acting a part while the real you inside starts to fade. The struggle to just be yourself. As York begins to lose sight of herself, no longer knowing which persona is the real her, the song keeps building to a frantic pace as it starts to careen off the rails, the sound acting as the audio representation of her mind. The damning last lines. “This is my role, This is my play, I chose this race.”

The frenzy continues right on to "Last Date," the shortest and most hypnotic song on the EP. Single words chanted into the microphone. The guitar waiting to be unleashed on the chorus. The drums riding the toms into the ground, enabling the trance state. “Quitting. Changing. Quickly. Aging. Washed up. Faded. Conquered. Jaded…collapsed under the weight of your sound.” The music forces you to move, entranced by the repetition until you yourself collapse under the weight of their sound. Your head follows the bass, your hands the guitar, your feet stomp with the drums. You’ve been commandeered. 

"Milk" slows things down to close out the album. A warm, slow, steady strum soundtracks lines about milk pouring out of the sky while 2,000 feline mistresses with clipped ears laze about. York informs us they’ve been mastered. The song also has a warmer feel than the rest of the EP before taking on a sinister tone towards the end. Something about this idyllic scene is not right. The end starts to open up like that sky pouring milk. Louder as the word mastered is repeated over and over. Who are the ones that are mastered and do they know it? After all, “they say that is the way.”

WALL shows with this brief glimpse that they are one of the more interesting post-punk revival bands to come along. A taste of things to come. They take the sound and make it their own. The language might be the same, but they deliver it with their own voice. A voice leaving us wanting to know what they will say next.