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Music Review: Tenement – Blind Wink

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This is an 11-song collection from Appleton, Wisconson band Tenement. This is an odds and sods collection of home recordings and tracks left off their album Napalm Dream, which came out earlier last year.

While the songs aren’t as polished and the album isn’t as cohesive as Napalm Dream, Blind Wink doesn’t feel tossed off. When I reviewed their first album, I compared Tenement to 80s Midwestern punk bands like the Replacements. That influence is still present on Blind Wink, especially on the 55 second blast “Viscous.” However, this album reminded me of Wilco, another great Midwestern band. Part of it is the fact that singer Amos Pitsch’s voice is similar to Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy. Like Wilco, Tenement take an experimental and boundary-pushing approach to solid rock and folk songwriting. “Senile” starts out as punk thrash before evolving into a noisy instrumental squall. “Medical Curiosity” is a quiet song with just a piano that then devolves into feedback, the crushing noise referencing the suburban rot that is dissected in the song’s lyrics.

“Down the block, there lies the cage
Of a nuclear family
From a distance, I stare, and-

I thought those people were extinct
Moving slowly like a dream
What a lovely family
Watch her kick and scream “

Not that there is anything on Blind Wink that too complicated or hard to digest. Tenement are masters of chunky riffs, chunky hooks, and cryptic lines that imply more than they spell out. Many of the songs have a reckless, careening pace, as if the whole song could fall apart at any minute. They are held together by solid songwriting chops and a pop sensibility that brings a catchiness to even the most chaotic tracks. Things slow down on acoustic numbers “Hey, Soozie,” “Cage That Keeps You In,” and “Hard To Say,” proving that Tenement don’t need to hide behind walls of noise and feedback to make an impression.

The album ends with “(Messy Endings) In Middle America,” one of the strongest tracks on the album. It hurtles along at a breakneck pace, with Pitsch dropping line after line of gems like “You gotta tie your own shoes or you trample your own feet,” and “you gotta fear the ones you love/and love what you can’t see.” It all leads up to a chorus of “Do you recall/Everything was your fault?” It’s this combination of humor, painful insight, and strong melodies that make Blind Wink worthy of your time.

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