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Wolf Eyes / Burned Mind

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Perhaps the best word yet found to describe Wolf Eyes latest release (and first full length on Sub Pop records) is the critic who diplomatically called it “bracing.”

Brace yourself, because Burned Mind is not an easy listen. With such aptly titled ditties as “Stabbed in the Face,” – which devoted fans know was issued earlier as a 12” – “Urine Burn,” and the charming, toe-tapping album opener, “Dead in a Boat,” which charitably donates over half its running time to the (comparatively) soothing sound of static, you may well need a Valium to get through.

But if the titles don’t scare you off, don’t let this review dissuade you. There are some aspects of this disc to like. A lot of it sounds as though it was made by a modem that has given up the tiresome task of communicating for other people, and decided instead to play psychotic rhythmic screeches for its own amusement. As improbable as it sounds, it’s actually enjoyable, for a little while. But it is far from all this little disc has to offer! Just when the listener grows weary of the modem mixmaster, the boys in Wolf Eyes, ever looking after the fans, begin screaming bloody murder. One assumes that this is an effort to liven things up.

I’ve never understood screamo hardcore. On this disc, it’s difficult to discern a single sensible sentence, and after a while, it’s tempting to give up trying at all. Given the titles of the tracks (did I mention “Reaper’s Gong?”), I assume the tracks are not touching love ballads, at least not in the traditional sense. For all I know, they may be reciting their respective grocery lists; still, they scare the hell out of me.

The sonic textures in the first half of “Black Vomit” are particularly nice – provided you don’t spend too long contemplating the title. On this track in particular, Nate Young and crew treats listeners to soundscapes worthy of Godspeed, You Black Emperor or any of the finest post-rockers working today. In any case, the screaming starts back up in fairly short order.

The screaming Michiganders are nothing if not prolific – since forming in 1996, the band has chalked up over fifty releases in a variety of formats – ranging from vinyl to cassette, DVD to CD, and two of the band’s members have their own record labels. They’ve done their fair share of collaboration as well, working recently with the bands Black Dice and Smegma, among others. These boys bring new meaning to the term DIY – if 66% of your band members have their own respective label, and yet you’re releasing a disc on a major indie, you must be doing something right.

The trio has also felt its fair share of celebrity love – they recently opened for Andrew WK, where one imagines it might almost have been worth sitting through the show just to see the looks of puzzled dismay on the faces of the frat boy contingent of Andrew WK fans during the opening strains of “Stabbed in the Face.”

There are also rumors that Wolf Eyes were hand picked by Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore to play the ill-fated Lolapalooza tour this summer – which is too bad, since Wolf Eyes is reported to be band whose energy is best experienced live, not to mention the disappointment of being denied the joy of observing the aforementioned reactions of the suburban kids who would have come chiefly to hear Modest Mouse sing “Float On.”

If I’m to leave you with anything useful at all from this review, it is that you should not, under any circumstances, listen to this disc while driving in Los Angeles. In many ways, it’s the perfect soundtrack for that activity – but all the drills, clanks, static, industrial noise, and terrifying screams just blend right in and you’re liable to miss something, like a siren or a pedestrian. At certain points on the record, it would be a miracle if you could hear your own car crashing over the din, and in any case, it’s hardly the relaxing melody you’d like as you wait for the paramedics.

So, should you come across this record in your local rock emporium when you’re in the market for the next Sub Pop slam-dunk indie-pop masterpiece along the lines of the Postal Service, for God’s sake, keep browsing. But if the prospect of some post-hardcore post-rock, raw, atmospheric anger intrigues you, Burned Mind would be a stellar start.

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