Serial killer garage-punk featuring members of Wicked Poseur, No Talk and Secret Prostitutes
The Energy's First Record
Over the last two years or so, the hardcore punk scene in Houston has been quietly dominated by a group of four young men: Beau Beasley, Tom Triplett (aka Tom of Montrose), Josh Wolf (no, not that Josh Wolf) and Chris Ryan. (Full disclosure: Beasley and Ryan are friends of mine). These four have amassed a collective resume that includes No Talk, Black Congress, the Born Liars, Muhammadali, the Secret Prostitutes, the Homopolice, KGBeasley and the Leather Violence, and the Energy, all of which are among the city's hottest punk bands, at least judging by the speed at which their singles go out of print. In addition, Ryan has recorded scores of punk and metal acts at Dead City Sound, Beasley has founded AG82 Records, and Wolf has been distributing records from a variety of underground sources. So far, however, this intertwined group of bands has not produced a full-length record, until now.
Like Beasley's No Talk (with which it shares two members), the Energy, comprised of Wolf on drums, Ryan on bass, Triplett on guitar, and raconteur/friend-of-nice-people Arthur Bates on vocals, traffics in tight, dark punk-rock with edges as hard as steel. Triplett's torn-paper rhythm play and vicious, efficient solos are an impressive rejoinder to the shred-influenced work of grindcore veteran Beasley. However, the sound of the band is the end of its resemblance to anything else done recently in Houston, or most places, for that matter. For one thing, the Energy's songs are drawn out to a length that is extremely uncommon in punk rock -- the songs average nearly five minutes, and album centerpiece "Stabbing in the Dark" tops eight- but without being particularly complex in construction or jammy/showy in the least. Outside of Black Flag (who barely count for this purpose), Social Distortion and maybe Fucked Up, it's difficult to come up with another source for straight-ahead punk rock with anything like this puzzling long-windedness.
The other, more important factor that makes the Energy unique is Bates. Bates, who also performs as Wicked Poseur, is not what one would call much of a singer, or even a charismatic yeller in the punk mold. His delivery is repetitive, muffled and flat, and flows oddly over some lines. His lyrics, on the other hand, are morbid, violent, cruel, and when they are combined with his bone-chillingly casual delivery, the effect is that of a band fronted by a psychopath. Punk-rock is no stranger to violent lyrics, but Johnny Rotten was politically motivated, Henry Rollins had the decency to be ashamed of his antisocial feelings, and grindcore bands like Pig Destroyer wrap their blood and guts in over-the-top vocal delivery that turns it into a cartoon.
Bates, by contrast, nonchalantly inhabits the mind of a suicide bomber, a serial killer, a violence junkie:
Moving to the exit, looking at the time, gonna get excited when it comes time to unwind. Messing around with dynamite, timer's set to blow. I can't leave that stuff alone, so look out when I come ("Destroy Imagination")
I'm gonna cut you into pieces, 'cause you're rotting up my room, can't drag you out in daylight ("I'm Gonna Cut You Into Pieces")
Like a machine on course, programmed to break your face. . . I'll never relax as long as you live and breathe ("I Won't Let You Waste Me")
On the aforementioned epic "Stabbing in the Dark," Bates takes on the persona of an unidentified murderer in a dark tunnel, in a hideously Lovecraftian bit of vagueness:
Look around, where do you want to sleep, 'cause soon you'll be mummified. You laugh when I pull out your brain, you laugh when I burn out your eyes.
Along with all this, Bates has the hilarious nerve to muse that "Girls Don't Like Me At All": "Is it the way I dress or because I'm so crazy?" Hmmmm. . . ya think?
Yet, though Bates's Mark-E-Smith-meets-Patrick-Bateman persona is repulsive as can be, the band's invigorating rock keeps the record zipping along despite the length of the songs, implicating the listener for enjoying it like a well-made slasher flick. In its ghoulish dwelling on sadism and its inviting spin on violence, this is a legitimately boundary-pushing record. In fact, it's practically evil. Anybody who says that rock and roll is no longer dangerous really needs to hear the Energy.