Published Mar 23, 2016Plague Vendor's stellar sophomore album brings more of their beach-soaked punk rock, but some newfound death-disco influence makes it a particularly compelling experience. Their first album, Free To Eat, was a solid tribute to California reverb and manic garage-punk theatrics; what we get here is some of the same recipe but pushed further, with more visceral dynamics and pulsing, angular post-punk rhythms.
In what could very well be the record's finest song, slow burner "Ox Blood" offers a simple yet irresistible mid-tempo guitar riff that just rips through with its insanely engaging groove, the heavily distorted vocals and entrancing rhythm complementing the three power chords that drive the song. "No Bounty" features a heavy, tom-based beat with a snaky bass line for the jarring guitar melody to weave around, propelling the song into a dissonant spiral of chaos. It doesn't feature a proper chorus, but simply descends into a cacophonous wall of noise that is eerily effective. Similarly, "Credentials" is a dark and sinister-sounding fray that's unrelenting in its pounding beat and angry, screamed chorus.
When singer Brandon Blaine is in scream mode, he channels something between the Hives' Pelle Almqvist and Refused's Dennis Lyxzen with his frenzied wails. However, for the more low-key dynamics, he's brooding in a very Iggy Pop mould, as on the song "ISUA." Comparisons to the Hives don't stop with the vocals, either; the song "Chopper" sounds like it might just be a cover of the Swedish band.
This is a more fully realized and textured vision of what the band offered on their debut. They explore a wider and darker range of influences, pulling in sounds from bands like the Damned and Killing Joke, but with a focus on heavy rhythm. The beats are mesmerizing, pulsing with Euro discotheque-like grooves, but the guitars are jagged and unnerving, antagonized by frantic vocals. The band seems to have shifted a bit from their West Coast garage, surf-rock stylings to embracing some darker dance-punk elements, and it suits Plague Vendor well. (Epitaph)