Artist: This Town Needs Guns
Genre: Math rock, Indie rock
Label: Sargent House
Bands work out the kinks on the fly. There are no minor leagues for music making; if you can’t produce right away, you likely never get an at-bat. This Town Needs Guns have found a way around this: their debut album was four years ago, and before that, they had several EPs. This still seems like a huge leap from 2009’s Animals. I had nothing against Stuart Smith’s vocal or guitar work: math rock with emotional songwriting was always more than good enough for me. I haven’t even heard new vocalist Henry Tremain’s old band, Pennines, but I will tell you this: his choice as a lead singer is perfect.
This Town Needs Guns are hitting a creative peak, and you’re all invited to the show on 18.104.22.168.0. I have no idea what they’ll do for a follow up to this; this as accessible as rhythmically inventive music gets. It’s borderline pop music at times, memorable melodies layered when they choose to sing. The first track of the album, “Cat Fantastic”, should blow any potential listeners away right off the bat; upon first listen, it doesn’t sound remotely complex, just like a simple pop song, but an analytic or musically trained mind will know better. (For the nerds out there: it’s five measures of 4/4 and one measure of 5/8, but the misplacement of the downbeat makes it sound like its 9/8 divided 3+2+2+2. The bridge is in 7/8 and the chorus is in 5/8 with one measure of 4/8 to end the sequence. Music theory: for kids!) But you’d be hard pressed to find another band who would ever write something so rhythmically inventive, and still have me singing along… yet it happens throughout the album.
Other standouts include the semi-title track “22.214.171.124.1”, “2 Birds, 1 Stone, And An Empty Stomach”, and virtually all of the instrumentals. The rhythm section shines more than they did on their first full length, but it’s not like any of this features shredding for the sake of shredding or fast playing just to impress you. There’s subtleties in the musicianship going on here, and it defeats other so-called “math rock” bands in that sense: every other band seems to be about playing as strangely as possible, or as fast as possible, or in such a way that you know instantly these people are far better at their instruments than every other band you’ll ever see live. This Town Needs Guns trick you, because the songs seem to come first; the songs are memorable, and then after a few more listens you find yourself going “my god, they ARE amazing at their instruments”. Their musicianship is the icing, not the cake; the cake is their songwriting. If the other Sargent House acts with albums coming out this year (Tera Melos, I’m looking at you) can match this pace and growth, this is going to be a glorious year for my ears.
In between 2009’s Animals and this year’s 126.96.36.199.0, This Town Needs Guns really only released a single two years ago. I have no idea when the follow up to this will come. I have no idea if they’ll be able to top this. This makes me optimistic about 2013 as a whole, and I largely feel bad that it’s early release in the year will mean it’ll be forgotten by some critics when it comes to 2013’s end of the year lists. This album is the right length, the right balance of songwriting and musicianship, the right amount of singing and instrumentals. This album is right.
Review written by Dan Bogosian (Twitter)