When vocalist Steve Sindoni quit Breather Resist last year, the remaining members decided to continue the band as a three-piece, though they would no longer perform their old songs. But after they were done writing and recording their new album, it was obvious that the band could no longer be considered Breather Resist, as the sound had changed so much. In a move that really deserves some praise, they dropped the name and became Young Widows, to mark an entirely new beginning.
Shying away from their tendencies that drew lazy comparisons to Botch, Young Widows are working in a totally different area. Their mercilessly in-step rhythms and harsh tones recall a time when the Jesus Lizard ruled the indie underground. An unmistakable nod is given to that seminal band with “Glad He Ate Her,” which shares a slyly similar title and song structure to the Lizard’s “Gladiator.” One can speculate that Sindoni quit due to a lack of interest in the new sound, as the rest of the band has clearly been on a steady diet of Jesus Lizard, Shellac, and others. While there are a few moments that would have sounded at home on Breather Resist’s last full-length, Charmer, Settle Down City shouldn’t even be thought of as a continuation from that album.
For much of the album, bassist Nick Thieneman and drummer Geoff Paton provide the solid rock for these songs to rest on, while Evan Patterson wrestles his guitar into the stratospheres of noise. He manages to make his tone both off-putting and inviting, through the bursts of melody he puts over the top of everything. One of the most underrated guitarists in the country, Evan Patterson is at his best yet on Settle Down City. But that doesn’t mean the rest of the band just plays second fiddle. Thieneman’s bass is very driving and present, and Paton’s drumming is so precise, there’s no need for him to be showy. He’s unstoppable.
Settle Down City was recorded by Lords frontman Chris Owens, and it’s doubtful that there could have been a better person for the job. The record makes quite a racket, yet every note comes through perfectly. The vocals, handled mostly by Patterson with contribution from Thieneman, are the most unconventional aspect of the album. Instead of trying to copy David Yow’s “shove the mic down the throat” trick, Owens seems to have placed the two in a room with the mic about 15 feet away from them. It creates a really neat effect, one that is missing from the mountains of pristinely produced garbage coming out these days. Owens also sequences the tracks so that when one song ends, the next song begins a split millisecond after it. It can be a jarring experience, and that was probably the intention.
It really is bold for Young Widows to put out an album like this in 2006. They’re not tring to play into any kind of a money-making scene that puts style over substance. This band is made up of three guys who love this kind of music, and want to play it because they love it. They’ve created an ugly, untamable beast of a band, literally daring you to catch it. Once you do, you’ll understand.