by Brian Manley
"Too Many Creeps" could be a decent theme consideration for the #metoo movement, and that was recorded in 1980. Bush Tetras have returned 38 years later with a new scoop of recordings, and they still aren't letting bullshit slide. They have been creating no wave/new wave/post-punk shivs into establishment ideals and sexist stupidity for decades and still stab heavy with their latest EP, Take the Fall on Wharf Cat.
It's been ten years since their last album, Happy, originally recorded in 1998. Formed in 1979, the band ran through the original era No Wave NYC scene, sharing members with James Chance & the Contortions. Bush Tetras sound was a bit heavier slam into a noisy dance-punk, and were early fighters for feminist equality in the punk rock scene, confronting the stereotypes of what women were supposed to act like onstage. With an intimidating snarl that crept between fun and punk, the band only issued a few recordings before disbanding in 1983, influencing three decades of music and attitude to follow. Since then, there have been compilations, some reunions and the late 90s recordings, but Take the Fall seems like the first time the band has officially returned, both in live performance and with a release.
This is not a partial reunion, either. Guitarist Pat Place, vocalist Cynthia Sley and drummer Dee Pop have all returned (original bassist Laura Kennedy died in 2011) have scraped together a forage back into a thick barrage that has not lost the growl the band delivered in the 80s. The opening cut, “True Blue,” immediately sets a tone of intensity and tension both with a slashing guitar over a lumbering bass walk. There is less a dance-punk approach than a more gothic, boots on the ground stomp that acts as a yank into the 21st century Tetras universe.
While “True Blue” serves as set-up shot to a scene of mid-tempo challenge, “Red Heavy” reaffirms and glues that distinction. The bass seems to grow lower and meaner and the guitars scrape in unpredictable overdriven shots across the opening, only to scream callously as if the amp was shredded through the verses. This cocktail maintains throughout the EP. “Mouse” picks up into a punk burner, that guitar flying off into the red again, before bursting into a razor sharp riff for the intro to “Don’t Stop It,” the closest song on Take the Fall that approaches Bush Tetras’ dance rock roots. “Out Again” seems to lumber and sway between odd percussions, as though the prior eruptions deserve time for very strained reflections.
While the music crushes bones, Sley’s vocals gust through, whisking breath and brawn with a sense of trepidation in the words. Bearing the crux of her message in a lower range makes the verses delivered sound even more foreboding, as these songs seem to issue warnings and stampedes of declarations. From the first chorus in the opener “True Blue," Sley paints a sharp point with “stand tall, feel small, I’m not gonna take the fall for you” and that spine does not break for the entirety of the grip of this EP. This cowl of defiance has not been shed from their younger days, and instead feels even more assured with a steadied, heavier stare than ever. The testimony of “I’m the one who’s supposed to have some fun” from “Don’t Stop It” left me feeling no doubt about that.
It feels like Bush Tetras have returned with something deeper than ever, and they seem to enjoy the loudness in their report.