by Jonathan Bannister (@j_utah)
Hey! Have you heard that Joe Lally and Brendan Canty are playing together in a new band? All the fans of their previous band are understandably excited to have the rhythm section back. It is great to hear them playing together again publicly, but new bands can sometimes be sidled with an unwanted weight of the members' previous bands. And what about the members that weren't part of the old band? Anthony Pirog is a hell of a guitarist who fits right in with the Lally/Canty dynamic. What can get lost in all the hype about beloved favorites returning is that Messthetics isn't a band trading on nostalgia or invoking days gone by. This is a current, vital band fully capable of standing on its own merits, creating important music that one should hear on its own terms.
And what are those merits? If you want a comparison, Don Caballero comes to mind. This is intricate, multi-rhythmic instrumental rock that never loses sight of its groove and melody. The music never gets too wrapped up in itself, it never loses the plot. There is always a direction to the songs. There are all out jams, somber slow numbers, mid-tempo hypnotic grooves. The playing is layered and involved, and new high points are mined out of each listen. The star of the show is Priog's guitar work. The guy can straight out shred. His runs are technical but warm, not emotionally detached. Lally and Canty are locked in as ever and with the duo setting up home base, Priog can head off in one direction and then go another with confidence that the music won't get lost. The listener is never lost or caught up in any kind of noodling for noodling sake. It is even more impressive to learn that most of the album was recorded live with as few overdubs as possible. Though it's not surprising to hear that.
The opening three tracks lay out what the band is capable of and what you can hear on the rest of the album. Pirog's solos, Canty's ride cymbal (the bell is also with him, ever faithful), and Lally's tasteful, unembellished bass playing. The opening songs get you warmed up and moving, introducing you to the band and letting you know what you're in for. They lead into the standout tracks that make up the rest of the album. The run of "Quantum Path" into "The Inner Ocean" into "Crowds and Power" show why The Messthetics stand on their own as a vital new band that is making important new music.
"Quantum Path" is probably the most straightforward song on the album. A song that lingers in its sections and just rocks out. Canty shines on the song, using his whole kit in service to the song. "The Inner Ocean" is one of those songs you play late at night when you're lying in bed unable to sleep because your mind is too caught up in the worries of the day. It's a song that lets you see the importance of instrumental music, how it can say just as much as music with words. It's a song that can stand alongside any of the emotional peaks one finds in the work of Mogwai. "Crowds and Power" is the anthem, the rallying cry. It's what the album has been building towards and when it unleashes its full splendor, it sits comfortably next to any of those euphoric moments listeners find in the work of Russian Circles.
The Messthetics is a great new addition to the Dischord catalog. It's an album you'll find yourself going back to time and again, finding new favorite moments to hit repeat on each time. It's an album that celebrates being a band, a cohesive unit that works together to create a singular sound. And they're only just getting started.