by Brian Manley
Palberta has once again gifted us a whirlwind of frenzied glimpses into their musical dimension. The New York trio’s follow-up to 2017’s Bye Bye Berta expands on their scribbled notes on tune arrangement, deconstructing pop into their own contorted delivery of lo-fi flings. Roach Goin' Down presents 22 songs that flail with an on-the-spot schizophrenia of ideas and movement.
These tracks seem to circle and stab into pop themes, ideas, sounds, riffs, and mantras, yet never formally enter that realm. Each song stammers on the tongue and scratches the backside of the brain with a familiarity, but the presentation is so swift and disjointed that the full recognition never occurs. “Rich Boy” is a re-interpretation of Hall & Oates’ “Rich Girl”; I figured that one out for sure, almost sounding like a basement band daring themselves to recreate it as a split-second challenge. There’s something about “I Have Found the Ego” that makes me run to my record collection and stare and wonder where the influence came from, what is the anchor point, and in a passed frustration, I instead am taken deeper into Roach Goin' Down, letting its sprint become the quick-witted spike and bounce it is.
The idea of pop is relevant with Palberta in more ways than one. Outside of their style of ripping the pillow stuffing out of frantic art punk and resewing it into creative disruptions of jangly riffs that ricochet back and forth, their playing style is a pommel of instant decisions that find the instruments straying away and reuniting and straying away again. It seems simplistic but the mess of vocal harmonies, disjointed guitars and off-time percussion is a blissful bolt. The deconstruction results in a primitive and raw, danceable no-wave sound.
Besides the genre, Palberta pop through ideas in a scurry to start the next without dwelling on what might have been left unsaid. With most songs under two minutes, Roach Goin' Down is a collection of bursts and short reports, flying by and dizzying your feet and brain. A sequel to their past song “Jaws,” here they bring us “Jaws’ Return,” which almost represents the choppy waters they are jumping through with the listener. One-two note attacks that stray and build and fade and then the vocals unite and…eh, don’t even try and predict it.