Collision Blonde

Written by: TL on 24/11/2014 14:48:36

Considering the sense of buzz there's been around the name of Kentucky quartet Xerxes for a while, there's a certain sense of relief that settles in when you fully turn your ears on the band's debut full length "Collision Blonde" and notice just how suffocatingly tight and well-executed its aesthetic is. Billed as a noteworthy entrant in the wave hardcore scene, Xerxes' claim to that noteworthiness is the way the group builds the raw-throated, emotive purgings on a modern post-punk soundscape that shows a rare handling of that genre's often elusive potential. For the first long stretch, the songs on the album are sharply measured movements, rarely clocking in at more than two minutes, yet seamlessly segueing into each other in such a way that you'll easily reach as far as track five, "Use As Directed", before you even notice that one song stops and another begins.

Prior to this, intro "I Was Wrong" has opened with brooding, ominous bass repetition and muffled background screaming building in volume to set the stage for the first song, "Criminal, Animal", which sets off with wailing feedback, a galloping beat and an interplay between reverb-ladden guitar and lively bass work that sets an immersive atmosphere while the mix of spoken word and raw screaming builds to the first plea of urgency: "So why would I stop, when what's prescribed is never enough, except to prolong the inevitable, in my head, in my hands, in my heart, in my throat!". It's there and then it's gone, confident as a single culminating movement before the following "A Toast" and "Knife", both of which thrive on the richness of moods that while similar, arrange the band's limited instruments in such compositions that the sense of energy is constant.

It has less to do with skramz or post-hardcore, as there's no heaviness or chaotic busyness as you would find it with Pianos Become The Teeth or The Saddest Landscape. Instead it sounds like a modern devotion to the power you can find in more careful melodies and dynamics, like the ones at play in the more minimalist pieces by Touché Amoré, La Dispute or even Rites Of Spring. The demonstration of this starts to become slightly more elaborate after the mellow interlude of "Use As Directed", when "Chestnut Street" opens like something from the fuzzy indie punk on Cloud Nothing's "Attack On Memory", yet soon acts as foundation for unforgetable howls of "Serenading in the dark for noone!". As the main, noticeably reoccuring chorus of the record, the bit makes a launch point, both for the barely intelligible - yet still catchy - screams towards the end of the song, and for the title track "Collision Blonde", which builds the primary bridge to slower La Dispute material by commiting to a hypnotic mid-tempo, ebbing and flowing with characteristic guitar noise and circling around the phrase "Don't come back".

Towards the end, "(but here we are)" gives us a track with exclusively spoken word vocals interspliced intentionally with repetitive instrumentals, giving the listener a more coherent stream of the frustrated lyricism and adding another change of pace to an album that, while it does have variation, has otherwise shown this within the tightly defined parametres of the post-punk/wave-core fusion. In the overall picture, it seems like a logical piece of the puzzle - an expected and welcome part of a whole where Xerxes demonstrate an impressively refined grasp of the genres that have influenced them, merging them together in a blend that sounds homogenous, characteristic and current, and which has very little room for filler, as only the movements that matter have been allowed in the songs. And while it might not be equally obvious to everyone, this debut is delightfully thorough in the way it confidently shows that instead of trying to out-heavy or out-chaos the opposition, you can create a more worthwhile effect from less if you simply understand that hardcore and punk - particularly those of the emotive variety - are not exempt from benefiting from songwriting that stages the genres' powers in more considered and refined ways.


Download: Chestnut Street; Criminal, Animal; Collision Blonde
For The Fans Of: Touché Amoré, Rites Of Spring, La Dispute
Listen: facebook.com/xerxesband

Release date 21.10.2014
No Sleep Records

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