As the idea of what constitutes “punk” music has expanded over the decades, it has accommodated heart-bearing appeals to listeners that channel the indignant energy of the medium in a revealing and cathartic way. While one could still listen to material from contemporary bands like Joyce Manor, Gouge Away, and Title Fight and see some through-line leading from earlier, more aggressive punk bands, so too could they hear the sounds of bands like Bully, Culture Abuse, and Pile and scratch their heads a bit, wondering how we got where we are today. These and other contemporary acts fit the “indie punk” moniker; like it or not, the idea of what punk is has been filtered through the subjective experiences of a good many wonky and wonderful people, and these interpretations cover a broad range as a result.
This expansion of the genre does not deliver for everyone, though. For those of you itching for some truly chaotic punky material à la The Germs or Flipper, look no further than Eat. Comprised mostly of members who have served their time in various different Philly DIY acts (guitarist Rachel Levin and bassist Kade Holt from Fred Beans, drummer Will McGoran of Wyoming; vocalist Efron Danzig is the only outlier), Eat have wasted no time in delivering a debut EP, Shit, setting a new precedent for how dirty, screwball punk should be done ‘round these parts.
From beginning to end, Shit paradoxically displays an almost-falling-apart aesthetic with utter solidity, doing so with a conciseness that leaves listeners with a sensation akin to whiplash by the end of its just-shy-of-ten-minute run time. What may seem fairly straightforward at the outset quickly reveals a stylistic intent, displaying less conventional approaches to the short-n-sweet punk formula. On the opener “Black Mold”, Efron’s inflamed shouts of “Johnny lost his arm in the war” exert a certain gleeful nihilism from the second the ignition kicks. “Big Stupid Fuck” sees the band rolling in the sludge with feedback-laden angst worthy of early Melvins. “Method Actor” is a quick exercise in how to make a song feel like the build-up to a roller-coaster drop, anxious anticipation which the band cleverly leaves us with like a pit of lead in our chests. In other situations this may sound like a bad thing, but the band seems to revel in unsettling listeners, evidenced in “Gorgin’ Like A Pig” following up with neurotic laughter and forebodingly goth guitar sounds.
After having praised the hectic reaches of the band’s sound, it may come as a surprise that my least favorite thing about this release is the fidelity. Admittedly, it seems like a swiftly-argued gripe: the spare recording quality is probably an aesthetic decision which the band opted for in lieu of more polished prospects. That said, I can appreciate that this is probably the case while also feeling like the quality is at times too messy to be fully enjoyed. This problem derives from how the tracks were mixed, with the bass and guitar sounding very squashed and muddy, the drums sounding weirdly fuzzy, and the vocals standing very truncated above the rest of the instruments, like they were spread over top with a butter knife. It’s an oddball sound by all means. Perhaps I’ve missed “the point”, but this fact alone won’t make the mix sound less amateurish, as multiple listens have failed to convince me otherwise.
Overall, I hope that Eat continues on the same path. While this release may not have been sonically perfect, it serves as a brief and convincing mission statement of what the band is made of, and I am excited to see what more havoc this group can wreak.
- Providing much-needed punk aggression without sounding explicitly like a straightforward punk act
- Beginnings of a defined, variable stylistic vision
- The mix is bothersome, making the music hard to fully enjoy