by Josh Ginsberg (@world0fdarkness)
Railings is a rock band unlike any other working in 2017. They situate synthy melodies and clipping drums that would sound at home on any ol’ local band’s Bandcamp page amid sequences of tall, dense chords that move in cycles that deviate significantly from the arcs of most pop or rock music today. The sophistication of Railings’ jazzy progressions is rare in a climate of DIY music so widely indebted to twee and punk music. New York has been missing extra-crispy lo-fi rock with formidable harmonic depth since Night Manager disappeared into the void. Though smooth auto-wah and the slow-mo Jell-O tones electric pianos twinkle and swell throughout ) ( , Railings have some ragged edges, beginning with Ava Luna and Railings' studio drummer Julian Fader’s drums and ending with the vocal powerhouse that is frontman Alex Ian Smith’s strained voice. Railings is a weird rock band who employ passé rock tropes to make a record that feels shockingly vital, despite the fact its influences would have been derided for their orthodoxy during the heyday of the American Underground.
Despite their jazzy complexity and the slickness of their dramatically angled chords, listening to Railings is a visceral experience. The heft of Railings comes most from Alex Ian Smith’s lacerated vocals, which sound more like The Afghan Whigs’ Greg Dulli or Bobby Womack—or even David Lee Roth—than the coos and mumbles that proliferate in Railings’ Brooklyn home today. Smith’s vocals evokes a strain of oddball masculinity that has always been at odds with the sensitive, bookish faction that the “indie” signifier describes—even while they gesticulate atop a groove that sounds like it might be at home on Random Access Memories (on the mid-album earworm “Raeliens”). There are times when Railings sound like they have more to do with Thundercat than most of the punk and twee-indebted rock quartets with whom Railings will share bills. This juxtaposition makes Railings especially appealing.
) ( is an album of many delights. “Breaking the Bong” is an anthem for a weirdo party that you might’ve glimpsed on a 1993 episode of The Simpsons as reinterpreted by Adult Swim. A song for weirdos by weirdos—who speak a language you do not. “Live Painting” toys with the way you experience time, its chords plodding slowly as Fader beats up on the bell of his ride with reckless abandon. “You Made Me Realign,” the second of two songs with titles that reference other canonized songs in the goofiest way imaginable (“Blinded by the Blight”), twists and spirals, its structure evoking the fluid motion suggested by the album’s title. The vamp of “Pyst” modulates upward and downward to nauseating effect. The whole affair reminds me of a time when punk didn’t sound like anything—when it was a form defined by its total aesthetic freedom and its spirit of adventure, more than its confrontational nature, style of clothes, or BPMs. Railings cover more ground in the first minute of “Hell Is Real” than many bands do in a career. I suspect that theirs is an artistic trajectory worth following.
Railings celebrate the ) ( release tonight, February 2nd at Sunnyvale in Brooklyn with Gemma, Laser Background, Zenizen and Hotline.