Tyvek Nothing Fits

[In The Red; 2010]

Styles: garage, punk, hardcore
Others: Thee Oh Sees, The Intelligence, Eat Skull, Wire

Tyvek came to wider attention outside of their hometown of Detroit on the basis of a more fractured take on the lo-fi/garage explosion of a few years ago. At a time when it seemed like a new “garage” band was releasing a 7-inch or CD-R every week that you “just have to hear,” which was usually forgotten by the time the next band had released another, Tyvek sank their teeth into a lot of listeners and hung on tight with compelling hooks tucked inside unusual song structures. They were offering a sort of post-punk approach compared to the immediate punk tendencies of their peers, and it worked.

But the Tyvek I knew from their self-titled debut album — the Fast Metabolism CD-R from Siltbreeze, a handful of singles and a couple of live performances — is vastly different than the band that turns up on Nothing Fits. It’s as if Tyvek decided to reinvent themselves as a mutated punk group, and to no one’s surprise, the aesthetic shift works.

There’s a reason it’s called “punk rock” and not “punk rock ‘n’ roll,” and Tyvek have left behind the “roll” that gives garage bands of a certain style their swagger and flex. Here the beat is fast, the chords are limited, and Kevin Boyer’s vocals are mostly shouted. And while demonstrating a strong affinity with hardcore, the songs owe a lot to the first wave of British punk in their pop sensibility. With its call-and-response, opener “4312” recalls “Safe European Home,” the opener from The Clash’s own second album; “Potato” sounds like a Pink Flag outtake; “Underwater To” — the best song on the album and maybe the strongest track Tyvek have recorded — plays like a bouncy Buzzcocks tune as grimed-up by Swell Maps.

It’s interesting too, since I didn’t respond well to the album at first. I didn’t think that I needed anymore tributes to the spirit of ’77 in my record collection, but repeated exposure to these 12 loud, raw, but still catchy songs quickly changed that view. Indeed, once the misguided disappointment that I wasn’t getting today’s equivalent of Wire’s 154 wore off, I completely embraced the superb 25 minutes of music Tyvek had created. Sure, there’s a lot of this stuff out there these days, but the recording is clean, the guitars sound great, and the songs get better with each listen; executing it this well is a rarity.

But my response to the album isn’t the only thing that has changed over time. Released back in November, Nothing Fits was actually recorded in January 2010, a whole year ago. Tyvek had slimmed down from their five-piece lineup to a quartet, and now they’re apparently a trio. Given the aesthetic change of this album, Tyvek could sound completely different by now, perhaps returning to the disjointedness of their debut album or maybe staying the course and planning to release another half-hour of snotty punk bombast. For all I know, they’ve gone metal. But whatever they might sound like, it will certainly be worth paying attention to; whatever lineup or label changes they go through, I hope they’re in it for the long haul. The world could use more Tyvek records.

Links: Tyvek - In The Red

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