Medications CompletelyRemoved

[Dischord; 2010]

Styles: math rock, post-hardcore, post-punk, syncopation-pop
Others: Cursive, Faraquet, Cinemechanica

Medications’ sophomore full-length is remarkably easy to consume. For something so covertly metrically ambitious, CompletelyRemoved goes down smooth, and before you know it, you’ve taken it all. Mary Poppins would be proud.

Maybe the D.C. band’s subtlety — or, rather, slyness — shouldn’t come so unexpected. Devin Ocampo and Chad Molter have been in bands together for almost two decades, most notably co-leading Medications’ much-lauded direct ancestor Faraquet, and it’s hard not to notice the level of performance chemistry birthed by such a lengthy collaboration. CompletelyRemoved marks the first recording almost wholly executed by Ocampo and Molter alone (drummer Andrew Becker left after their debut EP and full-length), but with the assistance of multi-instrumentalist Mark Cisneros — and the fact that they’re capable of copious instrument-switching themselves — no performance gap remains unfilled. Is it surprising that they can almost sneak things by us?

To be fair, CompletelyRemoved may lack some of the suspense of the only other Medications full-length, 2005’s Your Favorite People All In One Place. While that album communicated some kind of sinister bliss, CR seems hell-bent on coming back over from the dark side. In other words, I think it’s safe to say that CR is the band’s sunniest release to date, to the point that I worry about whether this album has what it takes to retain longtime fans, especially those who jumped on the bandwagon with the more angular Faraquet (like, what will they think of the almost hilarious falsetto backup singing in “Seasons”?). But buoyancy doesn’t indicate impotence. These guys are rehearsed and elastic-tight in a manner that seems to have almost gone out of fashion, and each song is, in its own way, more than a little beefy — each flexes a different compositional muscle.

“Rising To Sleep,” for example, features electric organ and a guitar jam-out in triplets (think late Beatles) before it blooms into a much bluesier beast. Ocampo and Molter execute perfectly orchestrated call-and-response vocals, the kind where you’d have to be able to sing your part in your sleep not to screw it up. Likewise, closer “Tame On The Prowl” spends most of its time in 7/4, a meter not unused in pop, but one that indicates ambition beyond a desire to be bouncy. Not that it isn’t bouncy; I just can’t hear it without laughing because I’m picturing fans at a Medications show having to constantly adjust their head-bobbing for the dropped beats. And “Brasil ’07” turns on a dime into an unexpected wash of brushed snare, bells, breathy vocals, and brass. This ain’t usual mathy fare. Medications have progressed beyond that.

Though they exercise obvious restraint, Ocampo and Molter riddle the record with scintillating tastes of their mathier past; “Kilometers and Smiles” blooms out of nowhere from a syncopated rout into a blissful, blended-vocals-and-psychedelic-guitar romp. At moments like these, CompletelyRemoved seems constructed just to wag the band’s superior and wide-reaching skills at us. Even the drum solo doesn’t get tedious — the drum solo!

So maybe CompletelyRemoved spits a little less than Faraquet’s The View From This Tower. But that it spends less time yelling, “Hey! We have loads of technical skill! And we’re a touch angsty!” isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because the obvious compositional ability still glows neon just underneath the surface. If we don’t have spittle on our faces from all the shouting, maybe we’ll get to hear the music. Who’s to fault Medications for being no bitter pill?

Links: Medications - Dischord

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