by Nathan Springer
I first saw Big Neck Police play in Atlanta about a year ago at a DIY space called The Cleaners. The space where the bands play is a huge concrete room with old dry cleaning equipment on the periphery. The acoustics of the space aren’t always easy to work with, but Big Neck Police used the odd sonic qualities to their advantage. They were one of the first bands I had seen that made me pay attention to how the space of a room can be used as an instrument itself. It seemed as if the members of the band were playing every note in relation to the specific space, physical and mental, that they were in at the time.
This attention to space comes across on Big Neck Police’s final LP Don’t Eat My Friends, recently released on Ramp Local (cassette) and Feeding Tube Records (vinyl). These recordings do an excellent job of capturing the nervous tension and release of the band’s live performances. BNP perform the difficult acrobatic act of seeming like they are constantly on the edge of chaos yet always retaining control and pulling it back. When I try to come up with some point of reference to Big Neck Police’s sound I am tempted to call them the “punk version” of The Cradle, the solo recording project of BNP’s Paco Catchcart, but to do so would do a disservice to the trio’s other members, drummer Hugo Stanley (of Palm) and bassist Mac Kelley (of Suspect). Big Neck Police, like Palm, treats music as a conversation, not necessarily between the musicians and the audience, but among the musicians themselves, with each members contributions being of equal importance.
In many ways, listening to Don’t Eat My Friends feels like an act of musical voyeurism. Many of the songs, especially the dronier moments in “Funicula” and “Morgan and Stagg,” feel ritualistic, sacred even. The album’s many spontaneous moments, such as the use of plugging and unplugging an instrument cable in “Guy Named Justice,” give the feeling that you are listening to these ideas arising on the spot. At certain points the spastic guitar work and frenetic drumming completely unhinge, with only the bass serving as an anchor. Even in these looser moments, one never loses the sense that these musicians are completely attuned to each other’s style of playing.
Big Neck Police offered a unique take on noise music that will be sorely missed by the musical community that they have been a part of for the past several years. On one hand Don’t Eat My Friends serves as the possibly premature parting gift of a truly idiosyncratic musical act; on the other it serves as a reminder of the talents that each of its members will bring to the table in their future musical endeavors. Either way, Don’t Eat My Friends is a sometimes puzzling, always engaging, collection of songs that perfectly sums up what this band is all about.