These Arms Are Snakes [I]Oxeneers or the Lion Sleeps When Its Antelope Go[/I] Review

In its ’80s heyday, American hardcore promised to develop into something much more interesting than today’s whiny emo, filled as it is with lyrics lifted from a depressed teenager’s diary. A number of acts like Unwound, Drive Like Jehu and the Blood Brothers have fulfilled that promise, adding their own technical prowess, metal chops and white noise to the hardcore template. On their ridiculously titled debut album, Oxeneers or the Lion Sleeps When Its Antelope Go Home, Seattle’s These Arms Are Snakes offers a handful of cathartic, fractured anthems that almost make the cut. Featuring ex-members of Minneapolis’s Kill Sadie and the seminal Botch, blistering aggression was expected. "Your Pearly Whites" builds into a series of maniacal drum fills, cresting with a fist-pumping game of start/stop, and the epic "Idaho" is a punk tent revival as propulsive as Jawbreaker’s "Bivouac." Even more satisfying, though, are the unexpected shots of restive pump organ, spindly noise arias and ethereal drone. Some tracks lag under the weight of the quartet’s ambition, but even when they fail, These Arms Are Snakes have produced an engaging collection that goes a long way to prove contemporary hardcore needn’t be for dummies and crybabies.

These Arms Are Snakes [I]Oxeneers or the Lion Sleeps When Its Antelope Go[/I] Review

Just when These Arms Are Snakes hit their peak of perfection with “This Is Meant To Hurt You” the band has come out with the new Jade Tree record “The Oxeneers Or The Lion Sleeps When Its Antelope Go Home” to outdo their previous effort. Not only delivering a heavier keyboard driven record and more stylistically incorporative backing, These Arms Are Snakes have also shown that as a band they have found their true sound.

As soon as the album’s second track, “Angela’s Secret,” hits, the dance-groovy keyboard incorporations begin to mix nicely with the strong vocal presence of Steve Snere and quick guitar lines from Ryan Frederiksen. The album is full of surprises around every corner. Just when you begin to think These Arms Are Snakes couldn’t do anything more to impress you, the band pulls something else out of their magic hat and dazzles. What’s so awesome about it, it that These Arms Are Snakes bring something continually brilliant to the equation with each song they transition into.

“The Oxeneers Or The Lion Sleeps When Its Antelope Go Home” could go on endlessly and continually be amazing. Each time the disc plays, with the repeat button on of course, I have become more and more impressed with These Arms Are Snakes. Their indie partycore, alternative keyboard driven rock is fun and inventive. For anyone looking for something new and creative, These Arms Are Snakes will surely do the trick.

Many would closely relate These Arms Are Snakes’ sound to The Blood Brothers. This comparison is not so far off that it can’t be made, but the description is better suited by describing them as The Blood Brothers minus the excessive amount of screaming, cheesy lyrical content, and frequent whiney screams. In a sense, The Blood Brothers should be called These Arms Are Snakes with additions of cheesy lyrics, excessive amounts of screaming, and frequent whiney screams. Their keyboards are strategically thrown in to enhance their music instead of simply being incorporated into the sound just for the fun of it as one would find with Seattle’s The Blood Brothers. These Arms Are Snakes does everything with good intentions and a clear thought process, and “The Oxeneers Or The Lion Sleeps When Its Antelope Go Home” certainly shows this. Partycore at it’s best.
5/5

These Arms Are Snakes [I]Oxeneers or the Lion Sleeps When Its Antelope Go[/I] Review

Being an "ex-member band" is a hard thing to shake off at times. Luckily for Seattle, WA’s These Arms Are Snakes, they are good enough to make you forget that they have members of Kill Sadie and Botch, two of the most innovative hardcore bands of all time, amongst their roster, and have created a name for themselves through hard work, a rigorous tour schedule…oh, and
making good music. Who would have thought?

These Arms Are Snakes released an EP 2 summers ago, entitled "This Is
Meant To Hurt You", which was a very good effort, but the demos were better
(besides the last song on the EP), and it wasn’t enough material for a band that sparked such a great fanbase in such a short time. Enter almost a year later, the band releases their long delayed split with Harkonen, loses a keyboard player, loses a drummer, gains a new drummer with a rock n roll resume that states "drummer of Minus The Bear", and prepares to write a full length! The world is stunned! Enter NOW, the album is finally out, the band is touring non-stop, the guitar player grows a ton of hair, and the bass player plays as much keyboard as he does bass. Now is a good time forThese Arms Are Snakes."Oxeneers" opens with a raunchy techno beat on the song "The Shit Sisters", which soon bombards into some avant-garde hardcore courtesy of your boys in the Snakes. They waste no time going into somewhat of a build up that leads into triumphant riffing, vocalist Steve Snere’s signature holler, and wait…keyboards!?! If you read the above paragraph, you will
understand why that is there. The next song, "Angela’s Secret" begins with an
incredibly catchy bassy keyboard interlude, most likely coming from a
Micro-Korg, but not soon after TAAS breaks into a nice dance build up, into somewhat of a breakdown, then into more riffing, then into my favorite part of the song…led by drummer Erin Tate’s silky smooth signature drumming style and bassist Brian Cook playing a racing bassline that guides the angular
guitars and Steve’s chants. It’s beautiful. Up next is the teaser from the
album,"Big News". Most that I know that heard this song complained "omg I
like their old stuff so much more this sucks omg!" But I am actually a big
fan of this track. "Big News" includes the best bass line of the year, as
well as an awesome bridge (which includes Snere’s chant of "What is the
sense/ Of giving/ All of your time/ Away?", one of the best moments of the album).The next two tracks are relatively boring, one is an interlude and the other is a somewhat boring, kind of depressing ballad. "Greetings From The Great North Woods" saves the listener from dying of boredom however, this song is incredibly catchy, and pretty exciting actually. To keep us even more excited, the next 2 tracks are also just as catchy and good! Holy cow! What a comeback! The album closes with the eerie "Idaho", Idaho isn’t much of an eerie place to begin with, I live only an hour away from it, but the continuous organ in the first 3 minutes of this song creep me out, but the breakdown in this song rules, with two guitars at once (Line 6 pedals,everybody, there is still one guitar playing all of this) harmonizing an incredibly catchy part that is very similar to (I hate to be so generic) later At The Drive-In era Omar Rodriguez riffs. The song then slowly crumbles away, ending the album.

These Arms Are Snakes have (finally) delivered a stunning debut. It
sounds like nothing out there right now (note the vague descriptions I gave)
except These Arms Are Snakes, and simply put, they are something you need to experience for yourself, for starters you can pick up this album.
Perfect for listening to while standing next to skyscrapers, arguing on the
phone, and playing video games.
4.4/5

Armed and Dangerous

Some things – “kids’ stuff” as self-righteous adults like to call it – nearly everyone eventually outgrows: skateboarding, weekly binge drinking, celebrity obsessions, emoticons. Maybe we just get bored of them (really, how long can you spend perfecting your beer-bong design?). Some are, to be honest, just darn juvenile (we’re looking your way, Mr. Sideways-Hat Wearer). Others, well, they just get too confining and full of baggage the longer you cling to them – by-the-book punk rock is surely of that stripe.

There’s a big difference between by-the-book punk (read: the ridiculous world of studded underwear, a safety-pin addiction or sophomoric skate-punk pranks) and real punk, as many a twentysomething’s had to figure out on his or her own. (Editor’s Note: Before you dash off a nasty email telling me Duane Peters rides a skateboard, sports enough black leather to outfit a couple herds of angus, and is so damn punk, he could cave my head in faster than you could say “stuck in the past,” I know. Yeah, but he’s got really bad teeth and hasn’t made an original noise since before we were born, so stick it.). No matter what sociologists, musicologists and that marketing whiz say, punk isn’t a youth culture. It is, in its truest form, something larger.

Nobody has the time to waste splitting hairs about whether it’s a feeling, a grassroots movement, a way of life or any of that other crap. Either you fundamentally get it – and know that it touches you so deeply you never really leave it behind – or you’d rather spend your life pretending it’s the mid-’80s. Jade Tree’s These Arms Are Snakes certainly fit with the notion of punk as something larger than a uniform and a catalog of out-of-print vinyl. The Seattle band’s full-length debut, this year’s The Lion Sleeps When Its Antelope Go Home launches into a densely packed sonic assault that takes punk’s ethos of individualism and hardcore’s blistering fury to create a sound that reluctantly drags punk and hardcore’s full-frontal power into places usually touched by indie bands.

Calling These Arms Are Snakes (singer/bassist/keyboardist Brian Cook, guitarist Ryan Frederiksen, and drummer Erin Tate) a post-hardcore act would certainly be a misnomer. Although the band takes post-hardcore’s notions of updating punk for a new millennium, it doesn’t use the same Fugazi and Refused inspired tools. Instead of cranky tempo shifts and wiry guitars, The Lion Sleeps alternately blazes with slinky keyboards to which, were it not for the upheaval of guitar and thundering drums, you could almost dance or roars with the apocalyptic roar of hardcore – filtered through an avant-garde lens that distorts its clichés into something fresh. It’s neither a sonic assault nor an indie-rock cop out. It’s both melodic and abrasive. It knows the difference between pretense and sophistication. It’s the Playboy Man of the post-hardcore world: Erudite enough to know about fine wines, moog sounds, cigars, art-rock aims and cripplingly expensive hi-fi systems, yet naughty enough to indulge in centerfold-gazing and stiflingly hot hardcore riffs.

“We had a meeting with Jade Tree today about how that works in our favor, but is also to our detriment,” Frederiksen says from a phone in his label’s office. “We’re not 100 percent marketable to kids, but we’re not 100 percent marketable to the older crowd, either. We’ve got that weird gray area. It makes it hard to sell yourself 100 percent to one particular thing. To me, I think that’s awesome.”

A little indecision in the marketing department shouldn’t come as a shock for the band. Formed by former members of hardcore heroes Botch and Kill Sadie, the act released a debut EP last year from Jade Tree, This Was Meant to Hurt You, hopped in the van and did some old-style touring. Along the way, it had some old-school differences in opinion with its keyboardist, who later left the band.

”It just wasn’t for him,” Frederiksen says. “It wasn’t really something that we felt we wanted that much anyway, was a keyboard player. It just kind of worked out for the best in the end. We went our separate ways and it helped us out quite a bit.

“There’s definitely a hell of a lot more room,” he continues. “We enjoy ourselves while we play live. Having that keyboard player up there with the other three or four of us was a little bit ridiculous as far as room’s concerned. Now we’re able to run free across the whole stage.”

The lineup change, which culminated earlier this year with Tate taking over the stool, did a lot more than give the band – which is now playing as a trio, but, according to Frederiksen, could expand at a moment’s notice – enough elbow room to prance around on stage. It shifted the dynamics of the band, changing its keyboards, now manned off and on by Cook, from a necessary part of songwriting (if you’ve got to crowd the stage with a keyboard player’s body, he might as well be playing, right?) to an as-needed accent to its songs. Now, with the same sort of metaphoric room to jump around in a trio’s stripped-down, spacious arrangements, TAAS stretches its legs on its latest.

In “Angela’s Secret,” a danceable Korg melody tangos with abrasive riffery, while “Gadget Arms” tilts at the highbrow world of modern prog rock, space rock and, of course, the band’s beloved punk/hardcore roots. The wonderfully named “The Shit Sisters” builds up from the half-broken synths of dance-punks, though blossoms into a corrosive guitar melody that juggles post-hardcore and post-punk overtones without catering to either fashion. Through it all, one thing’s clear: Between the melodies, the grooves and the wreck-your-hearing guitars, TAAS pushes punk into new avenues.

“I think we kind of keep playing and how it comes out is how it comes out,” Frederiksen says. “It’s not anything that we’re necessarily trying to prove to anybody. It’s just the way that it comes out and that’s what you hear. It’s not something that we think about much. I’d like to think that we are pushing some kind of ground in some direction. It means we’re doing something right. We’re definitely trying to keep on our toes and push ourselves as much as humanly possible. If that comes across as that way, that’s great. I love that. It makes me feel that we’re doing our job.

“I think my guitar playing is more melodic, but we still have these moments where we’ll just play something fucked-up and heavy that will fit well here. It’s never anything intentional, really, but I could see how it comes out that way.”

You can partially chalk up TAAS’ ability to bust out of punk cliché to its members’ long tenure in the punk world – they already got every formula out of their system a long, long time ago – and their forward-leaning artistic sensibilities, but there’d be little room for the band if audiences were still stuck sucking up to traditionalist copycats. The Lion Sleeps is as much a product of the punk world’s expanding palate as anything else.

For anyone like Frederiksen, who grew up amid the stringent, lock-step conformity of days of hardcore past, the sudden 180-degree flop from close-minded to eager isn’t just surprising, it’s a godsend for bands like his.

“Maybe people just don’t want to miss the next big thing,” Frederiksen speculates. “There’s so much out there, you hear on MTV or on the radio that are on a smaller label, not a small label, but they’re not on Geffen, or Columbia or Interscope or Sony. They’re on Victory Records or Vagrant and they get MTV play and they get so much radio play it’s making the market flooded with a bunch of bands. It’s not who’s huge and who isn’t anymore. It’s a lot easier for bands to make a living off what they do and support themselves.

“We toured with Blood Brothers last year. Blood Brothers are so abrasive and kids just eat it up. I think that’s awesome. As far as marketability, how the hell do you market The Blood Brothers? Do you hear the same thing I hear? It’s insane, but kids eat it up. I think it’s cool that there’s so much out there that’s just so absolutely insane and kids just totally seem to get into it.”

Yes, these times are a-changin’. Thankfully, with bands like TASS to lead us, the punk world might never stagnate again.

These Arms Are Snakes [I]Oxeneers or the Lion Sleeps When Its Antelope Go[/I] Review

Is this a Beastie Boys CD? I thought, listening to the echoing drum effects after putting in These Arms Are Snakes latest release Oxeneers or The Lion Sleeps When Its Antelopes Go Home. But, in fading, I heard the guitar and I knew that I did put in the right CD after all.

I immediately liked the guitar and bass riffs on “The Shit Sisters,” I was grooving behind the wheel while driving to work. “Ride, dark cowboy, ride / ride into the night,” and riding my in my good old ’95 Mercury Tracer, I looked in my rearview and saw the “100,000 dollar horses” that Steve Snere was commenting on—the shiny new hummer coming to plow me down like road kill. It is an intriguing social commentary on the progression of the human race. Snere says “I was born too deep,” into the mess things have become.

The second track reminds me of the late nights when that guy, who lives above me, is playing his Nintendo. “Angela’s Secret,” turns out not to be so cartoonish when the verses start. Usually while I am driving to work I don’t like songs that depress me, going to work is depressing enough, so I try to focus more on the music than Angela’s sad story. This song is musically simple but very nice to the ear, which is always a good strategy. The bass riff still won’t let me forget Super Mario Brothers and those dark levels with all the pipes; maybe that was the inspiration for the song.

“Big News” is my anthem. “I’ve got a life and desires / and it’s more than to retire / I trust there’s more in a life to lead.” While I was driving I felt the urge to be spontaneous and not even go to that prison. My job is not my life so I took the next exit and I was done with that racket. I ended up in very desolate area that I hadn’t ever seen before. There was a very energetic and carefree feeling to the music, but only until the next track emerged. I suddenly felt sad. I don’t even know if the track has a name but it made me regret my decision to skip out on work.

The short track turns out to be an opener for “Tracing Your Pearly Whites.” The lyrics are quite despondent but, at the same time, he is talking about going to the dentist. I think it is a big metaphor for the injustice of society because, hey, it fits with the rest of the CD. The actual beauty of this song is that anyone could interpret this metaphor however they want to fit their own situation, so I have done the same for my purposes.

After taking a strange exit and driving down a two-lane highway for what seemed like eternity, I began looking in my mirror about every 10 seconds. I kept expected to see that van from Stephen King’s The Night Flyer come rolling up behind me; now that was a creepy movie. “Gadget Arms” with all the effects and very few lyrics could be in the soundtrack to a horror movie; a mad sense of paranoia.

The music of “The Great North Woods,” is back to the energetic mood the CD started on but after hearing the lyrics I became worried again. Snere is talking about a Canadian farmer who kills people and feeds them to pigs. The intense repetition of sounds in “La Stanza Bianca” is intense. I like it but the lyrics are about how the mentally ill are treated in our society. I love smelling “the mischief in the air.” It seems like I know the party he is describing in “Darlings of New Midnight.” The music is party material while the lyrics are obviously pointing out the inferiorities of the party mentality. The rhythmic melody and chanting lyrics could bring about some cult suicide to innocent partygoers. It is a song that is played at parties to make the people there think twice about what they are doing—it’s great.

Then of course “Idaho” would play for slow death procession in the suicide party TAAS has created. The organ fits perfect and Snere almost sounds like a belligerent high priest who is no doubt describing hell and a beings arrival home. But—who knows maybe he is just talking about Idaho. So my ride in the car and my experience with the latest from These Arms Are Snakes made it a weird night. Oxeneers has a range of moods and sounds that make it pleasing for an array of different people and, it makes a perfect soundtrack to a crazy night.

Snake Charming

A gratuitous, pretentious title this album has. Bloody hell. This is the first warning sign. Second is the artwork that litters the liner notes, filled with gratuitous, inexplicable nudity. Disaffected-looking twentysomethings gaze pensively at the sorry state of the world with semi-ironic backdrops in tow – the tired remains of a party, streamers, balloons, beer cans and all – and out of nowhere pops a nipple. Maybe two. Maybe full-frontal male nudity (a rarity in any setting). The "art" on this album is baffling but very telling of its purveyors, These Arms Are Snakes, who have, knowingly or not, thrust themselves into the new "thinking man’s" hardcore crowd.

This is skinny-kid hardcore. It’s of the strain that finds its way into the ears of indie rockers with malleable, suggestible tastes — a demographic that rarely tends towards hardcore on its own. Remember the Blood Brothers’ sudden surge of popularity two years ago? That occurred because several widely read indie-oriented media outlets took notice of a band that was very good in its class and chose to push it to a broader audience. And it’s not to say that the Blood Brothers didn’t have an achievement in Burn, Piano Island, Burn; it’s just that the album received a big boost from unlikely sources.

In this vein, I keep coming back to Pretty Girls Make Graves. Taking PGMG for what they really are – a pretty complex, mathy punk band – their popularity among the bland Wilco-Death Cab-Strokes "indie" demographic is pretty baffling itself. And it’s to Pretty Girls that I find the most apt peer for These Arms Are Snakes. With layered, angular guitars and rhythmic overhauls looming at every juncture, this album has some adventurous textures and, indeed, some epic tracks. Both "Idaho" and "Gadget Arms" top eight minutes, and no song proper falls below three (There are a couple of throwaway intro tracks which don’t count.) And so, on their debut album, TAAS has gone full-on into conceptualizing their album, although it’s unclear what the real unifying theme is. The side effects are contemplative, multi-part songs that quietly build up energy for release at those oh-so-crucial moments. Yes, it’s dramatic at times, maybe even overdone, and the accompanying press material lauds the group as if they were the first punk band to reach beyond the confines of power chords. Yet the lyrics avoid the poetry-angst so common on these recent "mature hardcore" (read: mainstream screamo) records that have been infesting the airwaves lately – pretty much anything that Island Records picked up on a whim and is now peddling to the mall-goers. The instrumental portions, too, are a bit too abrasive for the masses just yet. They may find the aforementioned "fans" in that great amorphous sea of 18-to-24 indie chill’un, but that should be the extent of it. I have faith, but I suppose anything’s possible. For now, they should be content with viewing their achievement for what it is – a solid, provocative full-length that will make them more friends than enemies.

All signs pointed to tripe. But the visceral assault behind these songs, combined with the slight gussying-up that can be expected these days, makes Oxeneers a cut above the rest of the oxen. Dissonance is king, and while these arms may in fact be snakes, this is the soundtrack for a macabre snake-charming.

These Arms Are Snakes [I]Oxeneers or the Lion Sleeps When Its Antelope Go[/I] Review

It’s no case that the label releasing this record is Jade Tree. These guys from Delaware do have talent when it comes the time to recrute a band that plays something fresh and different from what most punk/hc/indie rock labels release these days.
With such an appealing line up (Featuring members of Nine Iron Spitfire and a band like Botch that paved the way for what is today called Mathcore) I knew I was going to listen to something worth my time. I just didn’t know what to expect with “The Lion sleeps when its antelope go home”, due to the fact that I hadn’t listened to the band’s previous ep ("This is meant to hurt you, always on Jade Three"). It’s kind of hard for me, even after various listens, fully describe you TAAS sounds, due to the fact that these guys build up and blend a sound all of their own which can’t be easily synthetized. It’s a like a mixture of elements belonging to different genres all thrown together in the same big pot: Post hc, prog rock (that’s what the reoccurring use of organs reminded me of) indie rock, stoner; TAAS fluently blend all these sonorities and deliver us 11 songs one profoundly different from the other, both in structure than atmosphere.
It’s too easy comparing this bands to act like The Blood Brothers. That’s just limitative, doesn’t make justice to these 4 guys. TAAS sound is much more various and experimental. Only band I feel like quoting here are The Mars Volta for the analogies in the “experimentation process”.

Needless to say, this album requires repeated listens before being fully appreciated. It’s not something that you will find yourself out singing along once you’ve put the disc in your player, but it definitely is an high class talented work that deserves your attention.

These Arms Are Snakes [I]Oxeneers or the Lion Sleeps When Its Antelope Go[/I] Review

Another ?°»supergroup’ released on Emo-lovers paradise Jade Tree Records. And is it worth it? F**k yes. This is perhaps the perfect execution of a style. Passionate, unpredictable and hard as a big bag of nails. Sliding bass. Spiky guitars and more vitriol than Pinkie on Brighton Pier.

?°»Ride, ride your hundred thousand dollar horse,’ slapdashes the opening ?°»Shit Sisters’, knocking seven shades of shite out of a rhythm until it breaks down, stumbling into a jilted drum death. Post-hardcore fusing with blues-driven metal, and later funeral keys (with the clicks of the pedals left on, naturally), serenading both the destruction of American values and the death of a style.

While twats like Boxcar 182 translate the Minor Threat of Husker Du and the Minutemen into lighthearted democrat politik and fart jokes (the perfect combination, I’m sure you’ll agree) and package it as sop for the younger generation, ?°»These Arms?°¦’ represent the power that the form could have wielded.

?°»You could have licked the lips of god, but you chose the pavement,’ they exclaim, out for a fight and taking no prisoners.

Sure, they’re preaching to the converted, but at least they haven’t given up on people listening; ?°»You stole my love, and I want it back.’

Enough cyclical guitar lines, perfectly balanced by off-beat rhythms to keep interest, and hints that if post-hardcore keeps driving up against the same brick wall, it will one day burst through into fresh musical pastures.

This is the album Cat On Form hinted at with their debut EP. And with Fugazi awol, this may well be the fix all you straight-edgers have been waiting for.

These Arms Are Snakes [I]Oxeneers or the Lion Sleeps When Its Antelope Go[/I] Review

Jade Tree have been one of the independent US labels pioneering the emo/indie scene for the last few years but this is probably their first release to go beyond those boundaries and into the world of experimental post-punk.

TAAS were formed from the ashes of hardcore bands Botch and Kill Sadie and have definitely retained their hardcore influences. Having supported Blood Brothers on their last tour and production credits for Oxeneers going to Blood Brothers and Pretty Girls Make Graves producer Matt Bayles it would be easy to categorise them in the same vibe but TAAS deserve to be heard free of comparisons. It’s true they like to play hard and fast in the same vain as Blood Brothers but their own potential takes them much further than the sound of a jagged post-punk band.

With a prominent distorted bass, piercing and pounding drumming, screamo vocals and a love for reverb there is the fear that the sound could be a little suffocating but TAAS manage to produce melody in madness. Last year’s debut EP showed a clear potential but a lack of instrumentation let that potential slip away. Thankfully, however, this first full length LP doesn’t lack in any way. With a lot more emphasis placed on the backing organ tracks, front man Steve Snere is allowed to explore his vocals and this helps reinforce his haunting tales of escapism from Middle America while echoing layers of guitar create a vivid soundscape.

There is perhaps a little too much exploration and experimentation in some places though. A notable example is the seven-minute Gadget Arms. With the album title already suggesting an undertone of pretentiousness this track does no good in silencing that tone. But fortunately TAAS only seem to lose their concentration once or twice and this is easily forgivable for a first full length.

With so many awful ?°»emo’ bands irritatingly clogging up the airwaves TAAS offer a pleasant reminder that not every band associated with the punk scene like to stick to a formula. But perhaps the best thing about Oxeneers is that is doesn’t represent a finished article in the slightest and TAAS will hopefully continue to develop their sound and continue to offer an alternative to spoon-fed drivel.

These Arms Are Snakes [I]Oxeneers or the Lion Sleeps When Its Antelope Go[/I] Review

"This Is Meant To Hurt You" was a debut effort that had many excited long before it was even released for public consumption – largely due in part to the ravenous cult fanbase that the musicians involved had propagated prior to These Arms Are Snakes’ alignment. Diehard followers heard former members of Kill Sadie and Botch were collaborating on a new project and suddenly the Northwest was alive with drooling fanboys imagining orgasmic hardcore eruptions. Though the group certainly launched from the gate with a style devoid of the hardcore muscle many expected; they offered something intricate, spacey and complicated enough to appease the indie faithful ready for nothing short of the holy grail. For all the buzz that surrounds the group, expectations were held (impossibly?) high for the Seattle three-piece (drummer Joe Preston and keyboardist Jesse Robertson quietly exited the ensemble once returning from tour). With the help of Minus The Bear drummer Erin Tate, These Arms Are Snakes have rebounded admirably, proudly brandishing the brilliant seizure known as "Oxeneers Or The Lion Sleeps When Its Antelope Go Home" at listeners with a middle finger towards those who dare even mouth the word "hype".

The year they spent on the road may have resulted in some unfortunate departures, but with one listen to the album it is clear that the time spent honing their sound night after night has paid dividends. This is a continuation of the ideals shown on their earlier EP and a redefinition of the very essence of what These Arms Are Snakes are about. The caustic unpredictability of "This Is Meant To Hurt You" has given way to a newfound confidence and energy resplendent in rich electronic inclusions. Plus an unconventionally roundabout way of songwriting that embraces hooks without resorting to the traditional bells & whistles paint by number design. Brian Cook proves to be as comfortable on the keyboard as he is at handling the bass duties, and this proves to be as vital an instrument to the band as Ryan Frederiksen’s guitar or Steve Snere’s vagabond vocals. Whether teasing with darkly ambient passages, svelte trip-hop dalliances or pulsating drum & bass experimentation, this inclusion thickens the group’s melting pot of sounds.

Matt Bayles production is phenomenal in capturing each note and discordant squeal with equal emphasis. Where the bands previous material had a decidedly garage feel, echoey and uneven in its delectable imperfection, "Oxeneers…" is a whole new beast which allows each member to be singled out and focused upon rather than hidden by one another. Cook’s arduous bass procedures are just as vibrant as Frederiksen’s distortion-filled string-articulation. The track "Gadget Arms" is a perfect example. Being little more than an indulgent eight minute instrumental of searing distortion and droning dissonance, it gives the band a chance to move beyond conventional song design and instead build skyscrapers of sound that illuminate just how talented this outfit are when given the chance to simply jam. The band also prove to be just as capable at making ear-catching indie rock gems, as cuts such as "Big News" and "Darlings Of New Midnight" are serrated blades that cut with toe-tapping energy. "Your Pearly Whites" is perhaps the gleaming jewel that is found in the middle of this delectable oyster, as Snere’s impassioned vocals and the hauntingly melodic slow build is exquisitely crafted to capture his enigmatic lyrical content.

Rather than be daunted by the ridiculous hype surrounding them since the group’s very conception, These Arms Are Snakes have used such accolades and praise to elevate their game to the next level. The band have eclipsed themselves with this, their full-length debut, as "Oxeneers…" ostensibly maximizes every single fiber that made up their core sound on the "This Is Meant To Hurt You" EP, while simultaneously incorporating a plethora of titillating new concepts and textures to the post-punk extravaganza. Essentially, this album is Pop Rocks & Coca-Cola; the spider babies in your bubblegum. The big urban myth of indie rock… that of an album that is as indulgent and irresistible as it is intellectual (and even accessible!) has been realized and proven to be fact by these Seattle musicians. They have given birth to an indie prodigy that is as tuneful as it is tactical in its execution. Delivering an indictment of society and its monetary obsession all the while being an album that personifies the perfection of music in 2004. Rambunctious indie rock, cynical art-punk, progressive post-hardcore; all are telltale genre classifications that feel far too cumbersome and somehow lacking in truly depicting what these musicians excrete. "Oxeneers Or The Lion Sleeps When Its Antelope Go Home" is genuine, it is original and it is undoubtedly one of the year’s very best offerings.

These Arms Are Snakes [I]Oxeneers or the Lion Sleeps When Its Antelope Go[/I] Review

Formed with members of west coast hardcore supergroups Botch and Kill Sadie, These Arms are Snakes follow up on their E.P. “This is Meant to Hurt You” with a Post-Hardcore masterpiece. Building upon the effects laden E.P., their full-length pummels the listener into submission with in your face vocals, a wall of guitar noise, thundering bass and tight drum beats all while maintaining an artsy aesthetic.

The opening track, “The Shit Sisters” commences with an electronic drum pattern followed by an acoustic guitar echoing it before a bass chord comes in and the album takes off. Steve Snere’s vocals sound like they are screamed from the top of a mountain. This is especially evident during the chorus where he screams “Ride, you dark cowboy!” The first track morphs from texture to texture with synth and bass syncopating in rhythm to full on wall-of-noise guitar with heavily reverbed vocals. It proves to be such an amazing listening experience for someone who enjoys this type of music.

This is an album of contradicting textures that manages to fit itself together perfectly as a whole. From the dark funeral-like dirge of “Idaho” to the Q and Not U call and response of “Darlings of New Midnight”, TAAS manage to craft a cohesive study of disillusionment and keep each song different enough to keep the listener interested while not sounding schizophrenic. The only track that somewhat fails is the Jupiter-era Cave-In like “Gadget Arms” and this is because it circles back on itself a little too much especially when compared to all the other tracks. It features drum beats that stop and start, guitar swells, heavily distorted bass and synth noise. At eight minutes, it feels a little too long for its own good but overall, it’s not a bad track.

Matt Bayles’ production on this album is pitch-perfect. Every instrument is allowed to exist in its own space even when all are fighting for their position in the sonic landscape. The bass on this album is especially impressive creating the exact blend of low end fuzz and mid range twang. The guitars represent the in your face aesthetic of hardcore with a large dose of reverb as if coming from a cathedral. The vocals go from whisper to hardcore scream with a healthy dose of reverb that adds to some of the preacher-like qualities to the lyrics. This is an album that deserves to be played loud so that you can hear the subtlety and power of the music.

Steve Snere proves to be a competent lyricist who conveys a great deal of emotion and importance without sounding like a dreaded emo band. On “Angela’s Secret,” he sings: “When you had your kids, you get to buy one get one free. And when you found their father, you know that you’ve got a limited warranty. A working woman’s muse, you’ve got the single mother’s blues.” This is a story of a single working mother with kids that is forced to steal and it is told from a perspective of an omniscient narrator. By the time that Brian Cook screams that all this pressure will result in a “real lack of sleep,” you feel the disillusionment and stress that the Mom is feeling. You can see why this woman has gotten so desperate.

Overall, These Arms are Snakes have released an album that is one of the best post-hardcore records of the past couple of years. They do just about everything right with very few missteps. If you are a fan of the genre or of the members’ previous bands, you should pick up this disc when you get a chance. It will certainly be on my top ten best albums list for 2004.

These Arms Are Snakes [I]Oxeneers or the Lion Sleeps When Its Antelope Go[/I] Review

Let’s face it, the entire indie scene, the entire post-rock scene, and, well, just about the entire underground music scene is cropping up more and more bands that put out the same music as legions of other bands in the underground. Some of it may be music, but it’s all the same good music. It would be hard for me to rate this album well if it was the generic post rock indie hardcore what-have-you that throngs of other bands are releasing in the present day. Looking at the cover art and the title of the album, I was quick to think that this record would fall in to that category.

Thankfully, however, on an aural level, I can’t possibly put These Arms Are Snakes in that category. On their debut, many were quick to compare them to bands like Cave In, and they were right to do so. While not musically bad, it wasn’t very different to the rest of the genre at the time.

Their niche, I suppose, on this album, is the use of the organ. One track, Tracing is an organ instrumental track. It’s all fine and dandy that they devote a track to the organ, but it really disrupts the flow of the album, and doesn’t really lead in to the next track at all. The reason that the fact that it doesn’t lead in to the next track is odd, is because later on the album, the desolate song Oxeneer leads into the conclusion, Idaho splendidly. On the song La Stanza Bianca, the organ is implored very well in an intro coupled with drums and some distant background vocals.

One of the areas where this album fails is repetition. Some of the songs sound similar, not to the point where you can’t differentiate between songs, but to the point where you’ll start to think things like "Hey, that riff sounds familiar". Not to say that this is a horrendous thing, since one of the best parts of this album is the sense of unity that’s found throughout it, but it occasionally becomes a little tiresome.

Overall, I applaud this album for breaking away from the mold and finding their own place in the sun, away from just about every other band. This provides fans of These Arms Are Snakes a unique sound that they can only get from this band. This way, the band has ensured at the very least a cult following, with their fans eagerly awaiting their next release. Even though this is only the first full-length from TAAS, I think they are definitely on the right track, and with their one-of-a-kind sound that would be difficult to reproduce, that they’ve solidified themselves as a band to look out for in the coming years, as indie continues it’s ascent.

These Arms Are Snakes [I]Oxeneers or the Lion Sleeps When Its Antelope Go[/I] Review

Bands die, only to be replaced by new, fresh-faced outfits, every single week. Music is rather like the universe in that respect – stars die, but the cosmos is forever growing, with new stars bursting into life, glittering across the blackness of space. Some bands die a little too soon though, not least of all Botch. The Seattle hardcore outfit have acquired a substantially larger following since their demise than they enjoyed during their time together, so it comes as little surprise that These Arms Are Snakes – featuring members of not only Botch but also Kill Sadie and Nineironspitfire – have been held in such high regard ever since their inception over a year ago. Last year’s toe-in-the-water EP, ‘This Is Meant To Hurt You’, was stunning, and whetted appetites aplenty. But does their debut full length, which arrives over 12 months after ‘This Is…’, live up to the hype? What do you think…?

No. Sorry.

Well, let’s put this into some kind of context. When I say no, it’s my opinion. I don’t doubt for one second that you will think differently. Actually, I expect you to. Thing is, after ‘This Is…’ I (stupidly) wanted more of the same, which this – to the band’s credit – most certainly isn’t. Recorded with a sense of focus lacking in the EP, and with the band trimmed from a five-piece to a trio (albeit with Erin Tate from Minus The Bear filling in on drums), this is closer to the true sound of These Arms Are Snakes. The bombastic qualities of the EP have been stripped away, leaving the listener with a record that’s awash in subtleties. The layers of sound a five-piece can produce, abundant on ‘This Is…’, are absent, replaced by a simpler, more straightforward collection of songs that belie the histories of the creative talents behind them. It’s not generic at all – don’t be thinking that – but it’s hardly the revelatory release that I was foolishly expecting.

A strong start distracts from a dreary middle section: ‘Angela’s Secret’, which follows the solid opener ‘The Shit Sisters’, is one track here that truly sticks in the mind for some time, the odd, electronic background effects chilling the spine to its base. Following track ‘Big News’ is the song that should feature on any compilations Jade Tree decide to contribute to. It has a bounce to it unbecoming of an act with such hardcore roots. Then, however, TAAS come unstuck – the menacing ambience of ‘Your Pearly Whites’ ("You could have licked the lips of God but you chose the pavement…") gives way to ‘Gadget Arms’, a prolonged descent into mediocrity. It’s a forced-sounding post-rock number that tests the attention span. However great it looked on paper, the execution is far from thrilling, and whilst I’m sure it’d sound great to other ears, all I can do is reach for fast forward.

(There’s a line on here: "…life is a movement, and I feel like I’m not moving". That pretty much sums up how I feel about this album – where I was expecting progression, the first few steps towards a brilliant, starry future, there’s only regression. To these ears at least.)

‘Oxeneers…’ picks itself up afterwards, returning to tracks similar in style to ‘Big News’, and thus to album type, but still I feel deflated. I know expectations are there to be dashed, but ‘Oxeneers…’, even after a good dozen listens, still hasn’t revealed whatever hidden charms it may have. (Bear in mind that it is a good record all the same.) I’m sure, in time, I’ll come around, like I did with Botch. Then though it was too little, too late, and part of me feels that history could well repeat itself. At least the cycle continues…

Steve From These Arms Are Snakes on Being a Vegetarian

Steve Snere of These Arms Are Snakes thinks that being veg is fun. Not only does he get to taste all sorts of great new foods, he also gets to try to recreate the recipes he ate before he went veg. And of course, his veggie versions taste so much better than their artery-clogging counterparts.

In fact, they are so good that even Steve’s nonvegetarian friends like to join him in chowing down on some meat-free cuisine. And with amazing options like Gimme Lean, Boca Burgers, and Chickettes, who can blame them?

Check out Steve’s other veg secrets by clicking here to watch his exclusive video interview with PETA2. Find out how fun and easy it is to be veg by taking the Veg Pledge.

These Arms Are Snakes – 2004-09-27

Entstanden aus der Asche der Artrocker von BOTCH und den Hardcore-Helden aus Minneapolis KILL SADIE, versetzte diese Band die Welt erstmalig mit der "This Is Meant To Hurt You"-EP in ein Staunen. Danach war man fast ein komplettes Jahr auf Tour, u.a. mit den BLOOD BROTHERS wie auch mit HOT WATER MUSIC. Nach der Heimkehr kam der große Schock. Einen Namen hatte man sich gerade erspielt, da verließen mit Keyboarder Jesse Robertson und Drummer Joe Preson 2 der Gründungsmitglieder die Band. Mit der Minimalbesetzung machte der Dreier fortan jedoch weiter, man hat sich von MINUS THE BEAR lediglich den Schlagzeuger ausgeliehen, der aber schon wieder ersetzt wurde. Man sah es als Herausforderung an, auch ohne die beiden ehemaligen Bandmates ein Album zu schreiben, das dem Vorgänger in musikalischer Hinsicht um Längen überlegen ist. Man hat das mit "Oxeneers Or The Lion Sleeps When Its Antelope Go Home" tatsächlich geschafft.

SJM: What’s your self-understanding of THESE ARMS ARE SNAKES – what does your band stand for? Please introduce yourself and the THESE ARMS ARE SNAKES members and the idea behind your band.

TAAS: These Arms Are Snakes is Steve singing, La Bamba playing guitar, Bubblegutz (me) playing bass and keyboards, and The Beav playing drums. The band name is completely meaningless. we just wanted a ridiculous band name since we’re a ridiculous band.

SJM: Does THESE ARMS ARE SNAKES have a certain vision of the band? What should the people connect with the name THESE ARMS ARE SNAKES?

TAAS: We write music based on what we like. We write music based on what we find interesting. We write music that’s a little too difficult for us to play based on our limited abilities as musicians. Our vision is to continually evolve and challenge ourselves, and to constantly reinvent ourselves. Hopefully other people will think of us as that band that is always going to do something interesting and kick ass while doing it.

SJM: At what point in your life did you decide to become musicians?

TAAS: I can’t speak for anyone else, but I was 14 when I decided that I didn’t have a future in professional skateboarding because I couldn’t even kickflip, so I figured being a musician would be almost as cool.

SJM: Well, listening to your first EP I didn´t expect an album like “Oxeneers Or The Lion Sleeps When Its Antelope Go Home”? What sort of feedback did you get concerning that?

TAAS: I don’t know. The record just came out so I haven’t heard any feedback really. All my friends seem really positive about it, but I think for them it’s a pretty obvious progression. For people who don’t know us it might be a bit more radical of a departure.

SJM: Before the recording sessions two founding members of THESE ARMS ARE SNAKES left the band? What about the state of affairs at that particular point of time. Did you ever think about breaking up or thoughts like that?

TAAS: No. The people that left weren’t songwriters. Jesse, our keyboard player just played the parts that we wrote for him, and Joe (drummer) just sort of played along to the riffs we came up with. Joe was a great drummer, but Erin Tate (our friend who wrote oxeneers with us) is an amazing drummer with a lot of input and ideas that really clicked well with us during the song writing process. I think we’re too stubborn at this point to break up, but Jesse and Joe just weren’t used to being in bands on tour. not surprisingly, Jesse and Joe were the two guys that had never been in touring bands prior to These Arms Are Snakes.

SJM: Well, a definitely good choice to go on creating great music. One could read that you wanted to prove that you can write the greatest THESE ARMS ARE SNAKES-record you´ve ever done. I think you definitely reached that goal? But what do you personally think when you lean back and listen to “Oxeneers Or The Lion Sleeps When Its Antelope Go Home”? Are you convinced as well?

TAAS: I’m proud of it, but I’m ready to write another record. While I think oxeneers is good, I think we’re still developing as a band and still have yet to achieve all that we can.

SJM: Well, what about that crazy title of the album? Does it make any sense to you personally. Is there a personally idea behind that I´m too foolish to comprehend?

TAAS: The record is all about work and day to day routines. Oxeneers is a made up word combining an auctioneer and an ox. So an oxeneer is basically anyone that works a shit job, someone selling off their time as a beast of burden. the lion sleeps when it’s antelope go home is a line out of the last song on the record. it Refers to the employee/employer relationship. We couldn’t settle on one titles so we just combined the two ideas.

SJM: “Oxeneers Or The Lion Sleeps When Its Antelope Go Home” is – from my point of view – a very modern record. It combines smooth parts with the typical DC-Style and also electronic elements. Would you agree to me when I say that you definitely have to listen to this record several times in order to “comprehend” it?

TAAS: Yes. I hope that when people first listen to it, they are intrigued, but not sure if they like it. Hopefully they will be interested enough to listen to it over and over and slowly begin to appreciate it. My favorite records were never the records that I loved the first time I heard them. Good records take some work to appreciate.

SJM: Is this something you always wanted to create? A record that does not “work” after one listening session, but with a much deeper and darker atmosphere with different layers?

TAAS: Yes. The more subtle a record is, the more engaging it is. Hopefully you’ll hear something new every time you listen to it.

SJM: What can be said about your influences. It´s even hard to “define” your style, but which records are you actually listening to?

TAAS: We all listen to a little bit of everything. We kinda just listen to the really good shit from every genre of music. If you were to ride in our van, you would hear country, reggae, hip hop, rock, pop, electronic, etc. We like everything but mediocrity.

SJM: What type of success did you hope to gain with “Oxeneers Or The Lion Sleeps When Its Antelope Go Home”? What does success in relation to music mean to you anyway?

TAAS: If we can get away with not working the shit jobs that inspired this record, that would be awesome. Unfortunately, we’re too stubborn to do all that cheesy shit that would make us popular really quickly, like doing warp tour or wearing eyeliner and all-black clothes.

SJM: What can we expect of THESE ARMS ARE SNAKES in the foreseeable future? Are there any plans so far?

TAAS: More records. More tours. Time will tell.

SJM: What about building up a new band? When I´m informed correctly you just lent the drummer from Bear vs Shark?°¦

TAAS: No. Erin, who played drums on oxeneers, plays in Minus The Bear (Anm. d. Red.: Kann bitte mal ein Tag unter Gottes Sonne vergehen, ohne dass ich diese beiden Bandnamen vertausche?!). Maybe that’s what you heard (Anm. d. Red.: Definitely!). But now our friend The Beav plays drums. He played in Harkonen. They ruled!

SJM: Any final comments? Anything you want to add what hasn´t been mentioned?

TAAS: Thanks for your interest in the band and the interview.

These Arms Are Snakes [I]Oxeneers or the Lion Sleeps When Its Antelope Go[/I] Review

Unlike other screamo acts, you can see brains when These Arms Are Snakes flip their lids. Stupid name notwithstanding, the Seattle threesome freak out thoughtfully, expounding on the lives of underpaid single mothers (“Angela’s Secret”) and “postmodern pigeons” (“Greetings From the Great North Woods”) between Goth, keyboard-caressed breakdowns. “Angela’s Secret” opens with a brawny synth line and Steve Snere’s ghostly yowl, then flares into overdriven guitar licks and (what else?) unhinged screaming. At eight minutes, the surprisingly fleet “Gadget Arms” evokes classic prog, while “La Stanza Bianca” has a post-punk swagger — gently profiling residents of a mental ward. The band’s got heart, too.

These Arms Are Snakes [I]Oxeneers or the Lion Sleeps When Its Antelope Go[/I] Review

"This Is Meant To Hurt You" was a debut effort that had many excited long before it was even released for public consumption – largely due in part to the ravenous cult fanbase that the musicians involved had propagated prior to These Arms Are Snakes’ alignment. Diehard followers heard former members of Kill Sadie and Botch were collaborating on a new project and suddenly the Northwest was alive with drooling fanboys imagining orgasmic hardcore eruptions. Though the group certainly launched from the gate with a style devoid of the hardcore muscle many expected; they offered something intricate, spacey and complicated enough to appease the indie faithful ready for nothing short of the holy grail. For all the buzz that surrounds the group, expectations were held (impossibly?) high for the Seattle three-piece (drummer Joe Preston and keyboardist Jesse Robertson quietly exited the ensemble once returning from tour). With the help of Minus The Bear drummer Erin Tate, These Arms Are Snakes have rebounded admirably, proudly brandishing the brilliant seizure known as "Oxeneers Or The Lion Sleeps When Its Antelope Go Home" at listeners with a middle finger towards those who dare even mouth the word "hype".

The year they spent on the road may have resulted in some unfortunate departures, but with one listen to the album it is clear that the time spent honing their sound night after night has paid dividends. This is a continuation of the ideals shown on their earlier EP and a redefinition of the very essence of what These Arms Are Snakes are about. The caustic unpredictability of "This Is Meant To Hurt You" has given way to a newfound confidence and energy resplendent in rich electronic inclusions. Plus an unconventionally roundabout way of songwriting that embraces hooks without resorting to the traditional bells & whistles paint by number design. Brian Cook proves to be as comfortable on the keyboard as he is at handling the bass duties, and this proves to be as vital an instrument to the band as Ryan Frederiksen’s guitar or Steve Snere’s vagabond vocals. Whether teasing with darkly ambient passages, svelte trip-hop dalliances or pulsating drum & bass experimentation, this inclusion thickens the group’s melting pot of sounds.

Matt Bayles production is phenomenal in capturing each note and discordant squeal with equal emphasis. Where the bands previous material had a decidedly garage feel, echoey and uneven in its delectable imperfection, "Oxeneers…" is a whole new beast which allows each member to be singled out and focused upon rather than hidden by one another. Cook’s arduous bass procedures are just as vibrant as Frederiksen’s distortion-filled string-articulation. The track "Gadget Arms" is a perfect example. Being little more than an indulgent eight minute instrumental of searing distortion and droning dissonance, it gives the band a chance to move beyond conventional song design and instead build skyscrapers of sound that illuminate just how talented this outfit are when given the chance to simply jam. The band also prove to be just as capable at making ear-catching indie rock gems, as cuts such as "Big News" and "Darlings Of New Midnight" are serrated blades that cut with toe-tapping energy. "Your Pearly Whites" is perhaps the gleaming jewel that is found in the middle of this delectable oyster, as Snere’s impassioned vocals and the hauntingly melodic slow build is exquisitely crafted to capture his enigmatic lyrical content.

Rather than be daunted by the ridiculous hype surrounding them since the group’s very conception, These Arms Are Snakes have used such accolades and praise to elevate their game to the next level. The band have eclipsed themselves with this, their full-length debut, as "Oxeneers…" ostensibly maximizes every single fiber that made up their core sound on the "This Is Meant To Hurt You" EP, while simultaneously incorporating a plethora of titillating new concepts and textures to the post-punk extravaganza. Essentially, this album is Pop Rocks & Coca-Cola; the spider babies in your bubblegum. The big urban myth of indie rock… that of an album that is as indulgent and irresistible as it is intellectual (and even accessible!) has been realized and proven to be fact by these Seattle musicians. They have given birth to an indie prodigy that is as tuneful as it is tactical in its execution. Delivering an indictment of society and its monetary obsession all the while being an album that personifies the perfection of music in 2004. Rambunctious indie rock, cynical art-punk, progressive post-hardcore; all are telltale genre classifications that feel far too cumbersome and somehow lacking in truly depicting what these musicians excrete. "Oxeneers Or The Lion Sleeps When Its Antelope Go Home" is genuine, it is original and it is undoubtedly one of the year’s very best offerings.

These Arms Are Snakes [I]Oxeneers or the Lion Sleeps When Its Antelope Go[/I] Review

You know you’ve reached a certain peak of maturity/lameness/mindlessness (okay, just plain age) when you start to enjoy wearing work clothes. It saddens me that I get a little uncomfortable in my band tees on the weekends, feeling like it must be housecleaning day, or that I’m just scrubby, unkempt, or past the age limit. Still, in my structured jacket and fitted slacks – not yet able to pull off a pillbox hat, but close – it’s fun to employ a sense of irony. I may look like Jackie OK-Mart, but I’m listening to London Calling in the car. These Arms are Snakes is another perfect soundtrack to business attire – its loud, metallic volume rings anthemically over bleeping PDAs and dreadful workday anticipation, but its core drive of melody is easily relatable, even a little refined.

The static of interstellar contact begins the album, making cautious, inquisitive steps at first. Then, as one may have guessed, the pace turns to militant and hostile – no time to investigate, there’s a war going on. "Angela’s Secret" and "Big News" capitalize on this gripping vertigo of sorts; the two tracks highlight the very essence of the band – a visceral, snarling exterior and melodious, complex center. "Angela’s Secret" harbors drums like a scratched turntable, with climbing guitars, bobbing bass lines and a tense vocal call. At once, it becomes greater than its formidable parts as it moves, in high energy, to "Big News," a track that gives Fugazi and Decahedron a run for their money. Its expansive punk and syncopated, notched playing serves as a rallying cry to the album, drawing everyone in listening range closer, without a choice otherwise.

These Arms Are Snakes have a knack for head-scratching accessibility, and this shines ever brighter as the album goes on. Case in point, "Your Pearly Whites" strikes a foreboding change of mood, rumbling and rough. The track is at odds with itself – an easy melody shakes through its threatening tone – but that makes it all the more intriguing.

The only notable downfall of Oxeneers or The Lion Sleeps When Its Antelope Go Home is that it tends to be overlong. As their much-lauded EP symbolized a decisive knockout, this full length goes on for a few too many rounds. Their epic, "Gadget Arms," is an example of this: the track replicates the gory exposure of a freshly torn skeleton, a howling wind bracing through the still-bloodied bones. While this is quite a frightening image, and should recapture its audience at any length, its churning pace becomes a bit repetitive; there is a temptation to slip away. It is a bit of a shame that after a few minutes of this terrifying feeling, there is an ease of forwarding through the rest of the epic – images and feelings such as these should not become mundane, and yet they do in expanded time. Oxeneers, while filled with captivating moments and melodies, does linger some; it does not overstay its welcome, per se, but ultimately exhausts its already breathless captives.

Still, it is hard to deny the frenetic, punctuated favorite, "Greetings from the Great North Woods," or the false victory of "Darlings of New Midnight" that realizes great power corrupting at its own hand. Abrasive, harsh, pulse shaking, and above all, relatable, Oxeneers fades in return. "Oxeneer, Idaho" comes full circle with its curious opener as a supernatural, paranoid oddity where the travelers in question can never be safe. I can think of no more fitting way to end the album. When These Arms Are Snakes is the band telling the story, a troupe must stay quick on their feet, even when they think the worst is over?°¦ And, as we have come to know in short and fearful form, this is when the band is at their best.

These Arms Are Snakes [I]Oxeneers or the Lion Sleeps When Its Antelope Go[/I] Review

Formed from the remnants of Botch and Kill Sadie, These Arms Are Snakes released their 2003 debut EP, This Is Meant to Hurt You, as a relatively accessible announcement of a notable new voice in punk music. Alternately melodic and inundated with noise, willfully abrasive and easily approachable, the EP raised expectations for the band’s forthcoming full-length and backed up the band’s steady opening spot on last year’s Blood Brothers tour. The band has finally emerged from the buzz created from its previous release with Oxeneers, a challenging debut that sidesteps inflated expectations by staying close to the group’s established sound while still demonstrating a flexibility conducive to future musical development.

The album opens with an assault of rhythmic mechanical noise. Slowly, Erin Tate’s methodical drumming imperceptibly melts into the cacophony, and an angular guitar riff obliterates the artificiality of the track’s introduction. The resulting "Shit Sisters" is the most definitive example of TAAS’s hybridization of diverse influences to date. The song blends Steve Snere’s sullen screamo vocals, Ryan Frederiksen’s math-rock guitar precision, a trademark prog breakdown, and seamlessly inserted bursts of noise into a concise, piercing, and melodic statement of purpose. The song also introduces the album’s recurrent thematic strand of suffocating domesticity ("May there be porcelain/ 401K plans/ NASDAQ"), a theme further emphasized by Snere’s conceit that most songs on the album were based on his experiences at a thankless check-cashing temp job.

Snere admirably seeks to take back the potency of suburban decay as a compelling image system from the clutches of countless overnight pop/punk sellouts. His depictions of abusive domestic situations and tales of mental escape from oppressive middle-class environments are frequently harrowing and affectingly sincere. "Angela’s Secret" pulsates with bleak energy, twisting a grimy bassline and militaristic rhythm into a moving portrayal of one woman’s agony in trying to raise her children while working at an interminable dead-end job. Funereal ballad "Your Pearly Whites" uses a backdrop of sludgy guitars and sinister organ to aid Snere’s disturbing oral-fixated reflection on the emotional scars of domestic abuse.

TAAS’s glaring weakness is their tendency toward disengaging academic indulgence. The album’s subtitle, like the band’s name itself, superficially hints at a certain pretentiousness that can be felt in the album’s most over-exerted tracks. The largely instrumental "Gadget Arms", heavy with foreboding harmonic atmospherics, disorienting reverb, and affected noise, initially complements Snere’s intimately graphic imagery ("Breathe on me/ Never spit your last tooth") but grows tedious over the course of its 7-minute runtime. Interludes like the elegiac organ instrumental "Tracing" and found sound collage "Oxeneers" add texture to the album, but feel like labored artistic afterthoughts.

The album’s melodic underpinnings, however, are its unmitigated strong suit– the most memorable material derives its power from the complex construction of succinct and simple musical ideas. The terse "La Stanza Bianca" fuses undisguised hardcore verses with a disconnected synth line and post-punk rhythm guitar, and the captivating "Idaho" forms several compelling elements– a waltzing lo-fi organ progression, dueling math-rock guitars, and shifting time signature– into a sprawling but rewardingly cohesive finale.

Oxeneers adequately realizes the potential of This Was Meant to Hurt You, but the band could easily cut some of the prog-rock fat that intermittently hinders the album’s momentum. These Arms Are Snakes is a promising venture of a group juggling several parallel engagements and side projects (including Minus the Bear), though the band occasionally stumbles in establishing a singular voice. Somewhere beneath the heavy exterior and detached indulgence is a jagged post-punk outfit screaming to be let free.

Discourse : Hardcore Zen : These Arms Are Snakes’ Debut is for Grown-Ups.

WHAT HAPPENS when hardcore punk bands grow up ? For an answer, one could replay Hüsker Dü’s 1984 landmark, Zen Arcade . The Minneapolis trio went from the blitzkrieg Land Speed Record to Zen ‘s dizzying blend of folk, punk, metal and avant jazz in about five seconds flat, relatively speaking. (Or three albums in two years, literally.) A double-LP released when hardcore had already begun to crack under its constraints, Zen Arcade helped break open the floodgates.

Twenty years have elapsed since Zen Arcade . But no matter what the era, no matter what the movement, there’ll be dogma. When a hardcore band matures, however, rigidity is no longer practical nor applicable; it’s simply a limitation to be eschewed and moved beyond.

And so it is with These Arms Are Snakes, a Seattle juggernaut whose members were weaned on the unusually strong — though admittedly more freeform — strains of Northwest hardcore. In 2002 the band’s members, all in their 20s, assembled from the detritus of underground outfits such as Kill Sadie, Botch and Nineironspitfire. But those groups, admired as they might have been in rec hall basements and Unitarian church venues, don’t matter anymore.

Oxeneers or The Lion Sleeps When Its Antelope Go Home is These Arms Are Snakes’ first full-length, and it follows an EP and the split single or two expected in hardcore camps. As a result, TAAS remains within a fairly mundane paradigm. But what counts is content, and from its opening blast of analog synth squall, Oxeneers is clearly something different.

In what might best be described as abstract hardcore (if only to avoid overusing hyphenated modifiers), Oxeneers is intelligent and shape-shifting. The band’s open-ended approach to punk makes room for pump organs and multi-dimensionality, for eight-minute epics and eccentric interstitials, for art rock and dub, for incisive social critique and impassioned pleas for humanism. And it makes for one of 2004′s most engaging and urgent records.

Like Zen Arcade , Oxeneers has a narrative structure (based upon a short story by vocalist Steve Snere) that doesn’t bog the record down. In other words, you can enjoy the CD regardless of context and feel free to bring your own perspective to the listening experience. And whether it’s odd little trifles like the Badalamenti-esque “Tracing,” the calliope swirls of “Idaho” giving way to frantic rhythms and Ryan Frederiksen’s magnificently jittery guitar, or the anxious force of “Big News,” the 11-song CD strikes a magical balance between delicacy and aggression without sacrificing an ounce of power. In an alternate, parallel, non-commercial, art-punk universe, “Greetings From the Great North Woods” is already a huge hit, if only for its lurching chorus: “These pigs were fed, these pigs were ready to be sold.”

Aside from qualifying for one of the longest record titles in punk, Oxeneers or The Lion Sleeps When Its Antelope Go Home , also deserves to be one of the most influential CDs of its time. It’s too soon to tell, of course, if the CD will take its place alongside capital-I Influential albums such as The Velvet Underground and Nico , London Calling , Zen Arcade and Slint’s Spiderland . Having grown up so well, These Arms Are Snakes at least deserves the consideration.

These Arms Are Snakes

Interviews
Pimp My Rock
French Kicks refashion the sound of Brooklyn on an innovative new album.

A Thin Line …
Introducing the most hated men in rock (besides Sting).

Prairie Dogg
Gnome on the Range
An expedition to Liberty comes up short.

Critic’s Choice
David Byrne
Wednesday, September 15, at the Uptown Theater.

Mason Jennings
Wednesday, September 15, at the Bottleneck.

Monster Magnet
Monday, September 13, at the Bottleneck.

Alvin Youngblood Hart.
Saturday, September 11, at B.B.’s Lawnside Barbecue.

The Slip
Sunday, September 12, at the Bottleneck.

David Grisman Quintet
Wednesday, September 15, at Liberty Hall.

Mark Farina
Friday, September 10, at Kabal.

Hear & Now
R. Kelly
Happy People/U Saved Me (Jive)

Shyne
Godfather Buried Alive (Def Jam)

Orbital
Blue Album (ATO)

The High Water Marks
Songs About the Ocean (Eenie Meenie)

OK Jones
Middletown (Centropolis)

Omar A. Rodriguez-Lopez
A Manual Dexterity Soundtrack, Volume One (Gold Standard Labs)

If you’re still mourning the demise of the mighty Jesus Lizard (5 years removed, I know I am) or At the Drive-In, then let the frenetic post-punk roar of These Arms Are Snakes salve those wounds. Like the former, these guys enjoy lobbing twang-hardcore guitar grenades over a rhythm section that locks into tight, pummeling grooves while the singer (Steve Snere in this case) howls distorted menace through his microphone. And like the latter, TAAS isn’t averse to injecting a little bit of math rock, Dischord-inspired melody and atmosphere to build tension before each explosive release. The Seattle-bred Snakes has one EP (2003′s This Is Meant to Hurt You) and will drop a full-length in September. The band also has a cool light show — strobes galore! Odds are, Snere will spend most of the gig launching himself into the crowd or shimmying up a pole, but a David Yow-style "tight and shiny" testicle trick is highly unlikely.

These Arms Are Snakes Expands Hard-Core Horizon

The new 11-song album by Seattle’s These Arms Are Snakes might be one of the longest titles ever conceived for a punk rock record: "Oxeneers, or the Lion Sleeps When Its Antelope Go Home."

More importantly, this intelligently done CD, with its sprawling instrumentation, biting social critique and artsy dialectics, marks a distinct and open-ended approach to punk. "Oxeneers" has the promise of being a big influence on a new generation of underground music fans and musicians.

Steve Snere, vocalist for These Arms Are Snakes, seems to sense the possibilities.

"I realize now that people are coming to this band and an opportunity is being presented to us," he told Alternative Press magazine last spring. "I would like to change the way these young kids view things — that would be the best thing I could possibly ask for."

Snere and his bandmates (guitarist Ryan Frederiksen, bassist Brian Cook, drummer Erin Tate) cut their teeth in the sometimes-rigid hard-core scene before playing in such underground units as Kill Sadie, Nineironspitfire and Botch. As even a cursory listen to "Oxeneers" reveals, the members of These Arms Are Snakes have developed a sensibility that outstrips formula and restrictions.

"Oxeneers" offers a surprising balance of delicacy and aggression, a blend of subgenres that ranges from dubby prog-rock to thrashy noise and includes complex song structures. Snere slips a hint of hip-hop diction into "Your Pearly Whites"; "Gadget Arms" is an ominous, mostly instrumental, eight-minute track best described as abstract punk; "Idaho" shifts perspectives in a dizzying spiral of pump organ, jittery guitar, odd time signatures and unique animal imagery that inspires the CD’s title.

Pretty impressive for a band that’s been together for only two years and has featured a rotating cast of characters. Two founding members, keyboardist Jesse Robertson and drummer Joe Preston, no longer play in the group, and Ben Verellen will fill in on drums for Tate during the band’s current tour.

Speaking by phone from Seattle, Frederiksen, 27, talked about the group’s formation.

"Nobody knew what we wanted this band to be when we first started," he says. "We just kind of jammed, but we started figuring each other out really well. Now it’s become a lot more concentrated and focused."

As "Oxeneers" bears out, These Arms Are Snakes has found its groove in part by liberating itself from formulaic hard-core. "To stick to one genre is just stupid," Frederiksen says. "You just kind of start expanding your horizons a little bit at a time."

The band will expand its geographic horizons while touring for most of the rest of 2004, including a two-week stint in Great Britain.

And the band, Frederiksen notes, isn’t even in high gear yet.

"We just got done (with ‘Oxeneers’), and we’re already looking forward to the next album," he says. "We want to come back from tour and write new songs as fast as possible."

These Arms Are Snakes [I]Oxeneers or the Lion Sleeps When Its Antelope Go[/I] Review

Oxeneers Or The Lions Sleeps When It’s Antelope Go Home is the title of These Arms Are Snakes’ first full-length for Jade Tree Records. The album title alone is an indication of things to come on this eleven-song effort. This band is definetly weird, from their odd lyrics to their different musical style to the way the vocals come out. Most of the band’s vocals are talked with rhythm in a gritty, distorted way. You won’t find any catchy or big choruses on this album, as most of the lyrics are talked as if though they were a story. However, what you will find is heavily distorted guitar riffs, great use of off-beat drum and bass, as well as a lot of musical interludes.

The band’s emphasis on the music is very evident throughout the album, including the first track "The Shit Sisters". It begins in a raw state that is quickly changed once the vocals come in. The band doesn’t really have much structure to their songs as you won’t find defined verse and chorus parts. This is heard when the song takes a lot of twists and turns including a big, guitar driven part as well as a rhythmic bass and sound effect driven part. The band’s more infectious sound comes in "Angela’s Secret". Here they use a repeated guitar riff that can easily get stuck in any listener’s head. They also throw in a very groovy, mellow part reminiscent of something The Blood Brothers would throw in one of their songs. "Big News" finds the band adding in a few parts where the guitar and bass integration is quickly noticeable as it forms a great sound. The song as a whole has much more going on than the previous two as there are parts that are chaotic and others that are melodic.

"Tracing Your Pearly Whites" has the guys opting for a slightly more mellow, eerie sound. During this song you’ll find some of the band’s odd lyrics coming into play with lines such as ‘why do you let them count your teeth while you sleep…I want to be able to stick my fist in your mouth and feel all 32′ showing up. Despite lyrics that I have a hard time coming up with meanings for, the song is very good musically. The use of different tones to the instruments as well as vocals provide for a good amount of diversity. "Greetings From The Great North Woods" features a few repeated parts which you could actually get some dance-vibe from. They sing ‘these pigs were fed, these pigs were ready to be sold’ which is backed by the quirkiest guitar, drum, and bass integration on the album. "La Stanza Bianca" has a slighty chaotic sound which is provided by the use of what seems to be a microkorg mixed with wild guitar riffs and shouty vocals. The closing track, "Idaho", brings part of their eerie sound back which is soon blocked out by a blistering guitar riff that is backed by a solid bassline. This part alone makes the song, however, they throw in a lot of lyrics that can quickly grab anyone’s attention, especially when they read ‘electronic talking parrots eating toothpicks as a mating ritual’.

After listening through a couple minutes of a pump organ the song ends this album at roughly forty-seven minutes. Throughout this time I have a hard time trying to come up with a label or tag for These Arms Are Snakes. They have some elements of post-hardcore, a lot of rock elements, and then a bunch of stuff they throw in that I’ve never heard together before. It’s hard to believe this is just their first full-length, as it has the feeling of a band that has been making albums for a long time. The album defines a band who are nothing close to conventional and don’t take themselves too seriously. They have made an album that is full of crazy song structures and loads of talent but most importantly creativity, and that is something music needs right now.

Standout Tracks:
"Big News"
"La Stanza Bianca"
"Greetings From The Great North Woods"
"Angela’s Secret"

These Arms Are Snakes @ Emo’s

Q: What’s worse than having to see one of your favorite bands in a venue you hate?
A: Having to see bands you’ve never even heard of in a venue you hate.
Q: What’s better than forgetting the horrible venue you’re in because your favorite band swept you off your feet?
A: Forgetting the horrible venue you’re in because bands you’ve never even heard of swept you off your feet.

This was my experience last night at Emo’s. I brought two friends with me for moral support, just in case the bands were horrible, or even worse, mediocre. I brought a book. I even downloaded a game onto my phone, just in case. And then Communiqué got on stage.

Instantly catchy, the music pulled me into its own little world, which is vaguely New Wave, but with keys that sometimes sound like Grandaddy and vocals like Tim Kasher, if he stayed in key and didn’t scream so much. The band exuded a kind of quiet intensity, the sure sign of a grown-up punk kid, which in fact, these guys are. I wish I had been more familiar with the music before seeing them live; they had that intimate, sing-along kind of vibe that I wanted so badly to participate in but couldn’t. I learned later that they played two songs from their old EP, A Crescent Honeymoon, mostly new songs from their recently released full-length, Poison Arrows, and one unreleased, brand spankin’ new song called "Baby, I’m Leaving You."

There wasn’t a lot of dialogue or time wasting; they flowed from one song to the next, carrying the audience along with them. In fact, I noticed as I looked around the room that it was unusually crowded and quiet for an opening act. Emo’s crowds are notoriously rude to the early shows, but this time they seemed as wrapped up in what was happening as I was, and therefore relatively polite. Whether or not Communiqué noticed or understood this, I don’t know. I hope that at least they instinctively felt and appreciated the attentiveness. And I hope they come back soon.

Setlist:
Best Lies
Dagger Vision
Cross Your Heart
Perfect Weapon
Black Curses
Evening in the City
Baby, I’m Leaving You
Evaporate
My Bay

Now, I was only supposed to review Communiqué and These Arms Are Snakes, but since when have I ever done what I’m supposed to? However, since I am stealing space, I’ll only steal a little. I just want to say that I was completely blown away by Murder By Death. I don’t know where these kids came from, how long they’ve been around, how many of them have been to art or music school, who they are, or any of the other important information someone would want to know about a band. All I know is that I was on the point of tears throughout their entire set. The piano and the cello in this band are mind-blowingly impressive, and yet still beautiful and accessible. And even though my description thus far makes them sound like some stodgy art-fag act, they are undeniably ROCK. Do yourself a favor and see these kids next time they’re in your town; it just might save your life.

Headlining the show were Jade Tree troublemakers, These Arms Are Snakes. I would like to preface this review by quoting the brilliant Mr. Stephin Merritt (Magnetic Fields, 6ths, Future Bible Heroes, Gothic Archies): "I plan to explore seizure-raising mixing techniques?°¦That’s the way we find out more about our brains-we disturb them." Judging by their live show, TAAS are definitely out to find out more about our brains. Holy shit, the drummer! I found out afterwards that TAAS doesn’t currently have a regular drummer, so for this part of the tour they borrowed Erin Tate of Minus the Bear. Uhhh?°¦yeah?°¦this guy kicks ass. And he doesn’t even have to get up off his own to do it. Tate wasn’t the only one owning the crowd, though: the entire band laid waste to us all. Noisy, raucous, spastic, but always tight, they reminded my friends and me of an underground crossbreed between At the Drive-In and Rage Against the Machine.

Singer Steve Snere strutted like a rooster but screamed like a cat. Guitarist Ryan Frederiksen and bassist Brian Cook melted our faces off with their severe and passionate attack on their instruments. They all screamed and danced and initiated the epileptic attacks with a few of their own. The crowd, or at least parts of it, certainly followed where they lead. I was totally absorbed, but also amused. And I can’t wait to do it again. If you’ve ever listened to their album and thought to yourself, "Hm?°¦ok, not bad," I definitely recommend you see them live. There’s simply no comparison. If you’ve never heard of them before, go see them live. If you’re a fan, I’m assuming you’ve already seen them live. I think that just about covers everyone. Keep your eyes peeled for their upcoming LP The Oxeneers or The Lion Sleeps When Its Antelope Go Home, being released September 21st.

Murder by Snakes? These Arms are Death?

So, I recently decided to do something adventuresome, fun and potentially stupid. I randomly decided to see These Arms are Snakes and Murder By Death on July 14 in Pomona, CA without ever hearing anything by either band. (There goes my king of hipsterdom nomination.)

There are risks involved in going to any show, mostly because you never know how awful the openers may be. But when you go “blind date” style, you even have to worry about the headliners. I had, at least, heard of each band, and good reputations preceded each.

I quickly learned that Seattle’s These Arms are Snakes features members of art thrashers Botch and Minneapolis’s warmly regarded Kill Sadie (whose guitarist now resides in Pretty Girls Make Graves) and are set to release Oxeneers or The Lion Sleeps When its Antelope Go Home on September 21st. Murder By Death apparently was discovered in their home state of Indiana by Geoff Rickly of Thursday fame. He pushed for them to Eyeball records, who released Thursday’s Waiting, and they now have released two cds with the label.

A few downloads after discovering the histories, I thought I had a relatively good grasp of where both bands stood. These Arms were straight up post-hardcore in the vein of a heavier Quicksand and Murder By Death sounded sorta like Cursive, mostly because of the cello. (These of course, were my severely ignorant initial observations listening to one song each: “Grape Dragon” and “Killbot 2000,” respectively).

As These Arms Are Snakes hit the stage, I watched singer Steve Snere (a fitting last name) swagger onto stage, confidently, not arrogantly. He had a job to do, and it seemed much more to do with the music than it did with entertaining the crowd. I liked that.

Ironically, the band opened with “Grape Dragon,” and said to myself, “Well?°¦at least I know the name of the first song.” Snere fluttered around the stage with a presence equal parts Cedric Bixler-Zavala and the aforementioned Rickly. But, his strut is even more natural and testosterone injected; it’s almost as natural as his pissed-off stage demeanor. With vocals akin to those of Les Savy Fav’s Tim Harrington raging on PCP, Snere commands respect with his speak screaming in the way rappers like Chuck D., Chali 2Na and Mr. Lif demand attention.

The drubbing bass lines of Brian Cook drove many of the songs, while guitarist Ryan Frederiksen (who, incidentally, was recovering from getting his appendix out only six days previous) supplemented Cook’s arty Quicksand inspired lines.

About four songs in, Snere, and the band, changed shape. The lighting (which Snere ran through an effects board at his feet,) got darker. The band got darker. The mood followed. What had been an impressive post-hardcore display of such new songs as “Angela’s Secret” and “Big News” transformed into an overpowering experimental post-hardcore opera of controlled chaos. The drums got bigger. The bass lines thumped heavier. The crowd became entranced, or at least bewildered.

The display even inspired me to close my eyes. I’ve never wanted to look away from any band I’ve liked, or even laughable bands, least of all a band I’d only heard one song from. But I felt “Run it Through,” “Idaho” and the bombastic “Drinking From the Necks of the Ones You Love.” (My girlfriend nabbed a set list after the show?°¦)

In fact, the only disappointment of the whole set was that it was only eight songs. This could have been caused by anything: Frederiksen’s stitches, that the band was playing with a replacement drummer, or perhaps they just felt that eight was enough. I was disappointed, yet wholly satisfied.

Openers Murder by Death seem like a dangerous band to take on tour with you. They’re enigmatic enough to steal just about any crowd because of their complex orchestration, and genuine, Midwestern personality. Of the four bands on the bill, Murder drew the largest crowd.

The band’s creative energy, for me was embodied in two moments: The first was watching their Valkyrian cellist Sarah Balliet not only abuse her cello but also whole-heartedly sing nearly every song. No microphone picked her up, leaving her cello to play her voice. The second was the fact the band actually had the balls (and in Sarah’s case, ovaries) to end their set with not one, but two instrumentals, “Those Who Stayed” and “Those Who Left” from 2002’s phenomenally named Like the Exorcist, but More Breakdancing.

But oddly, after watching them play, I don’t think I would have wanted anything else. Murder, live, reminded me of Hum’s two great albums, “Downward is Heavenward” and “You’d Prefer and Astronaut,” not at all in terms of sound, but in terms of feel. Each instrument, cello, drums, keys, guitar, bass, and singer Adam Turia’s vocal chords were all equals, separating only for a few moments at key points, and then pulling back together. On record (I bought both) Turia’s vocals are more pronounced, but his gently rollicking vocal style (not unlike Ryan Adams’ less drunk moments) is a refreshing change of pace from the emo whining.

At times it was hard to tell lyrically whether or not I actually was seeing the most inventive country band on the planet. There were too many references to whiskey for there not to be some roots (pronounced ruuts) in bluegrass. But, thankfully, there was no twang, and their tongue-in-cheek lyrics and song titles (“I’m Afraid of Whos Afraid of Virginia Woolf” and “Until Morale Improves the Beatings Will Continue,” for starters) reveal the force Murder By Death probably will become. They don’t take themselves too seriously, which is odd given their fantastic musicianship, stage presence and aura, at such a young age. I mean, their single, “Killbot 2000” is about zombies and it sounds great.

Paris, Texas opened with a power pop meets heavier emo set, and Communiqué emulated Deadsy hitting the emo scene. Neither were very memorable, and both need some work developing a cohesive stage identity. But at least they didn’t give me a headache.