Wrestling Moves opens with the crashing barrage of Nick Glassen’s urgent drumming, rising suitably to provoke Bobby Markos’ vocals. “From winter to summer, the climates like costumes,” he shouts. “We paint them depending on spirit.”
So begins “Backseat Crew,” the opening cut to Native’s full-length debut. The Indiana band hasn’t been around that long, but they’re already piling up press accolades and a significant fan base. After touring extensively and releasing a debut EP in 2008, Native put their work ethic to the test making this complex record.
Comparisons to Jawbox and the post-hardcore of the 90s are bound to happen, but Native manages to skirt these while still living up to the legacy of their genre. The quartet presses forward to establish themselves in a new context and, while they never spurn the groundwork laid by current technical bands like Minus the Bear, they’re more than happy to forge their own way in the bottomless pit that is modern music.
One of the drawbacks to acts trafficking in the convoluted complexities of Native’s math-ish style is that the technical prowess of the music can often overpower the soul. Thanks to Markos and his resources of unregulated force, however, these guys manage something beyond mere adulation of pretense.
There’s blistering sincerity in every note and Native’s pursuit of what’s real infuses every passage with a profound sense of innocence. Even as Markos blurts those odd lyrics on “Backseat Crew,” you can tell he means it. Really.
More than that, the honesty and youthful energy of this band carries it through moments when other less honest groups would have struggled.
The gauzy expansiveness of “Marco Polo,” for instance, is never threatened by band members trying to outdo one another. Dan Evans and Ed O’Neill join forces and stay the course, providing a glossy jet stream of music that tells a story and lingers long after the closing notes are played. Even Markos is modest: “Spaces will quell, we’ll quell the shades.”
Shorter bursts of energy catapult tracks like “Members List” and “Shirts and Skins” into almost jubilant territory.
At the end of the day, Wrestling Moves is a record that does indeed move. Despite its musical heaviness, it floats with a degree of ease that will surprise many listeners. The simplicity with which Native communicates and performs is certainly commendable, especially in a genre often filled with pompous, strained nonsense.