PC Worship Social Rust

[Northern Spy/Dull Tools; 2014]

Styles: noise rock
Others: The Melvins, Flipper, The Men (pre-Open Your Heart), Parquet Courts, Teeth Mountain

Justin Frye’s PC Worship has been steadily disseminating tape-damaged noise rock transmissions through the Brooklyn underground since 2009. In that time, the project has garnered love from Real Estate’s Matt Mondanile and Parquet Courts, the latter of whom will be forming Voltron-like with PCW for their fall tour. Coming at a time like this, Social Rust, the band’s fifth full-length, then, could be a de facto entry point for a whole new audience to explore Frye’s peculiar aesthetic, and as such, he’s sculpted the record according to some of PC Worship’s more accessible impulses. The result is a work whose rough textures often (though, notably, not always) adorn songs with more familiar or conventional structures.

There has always been a tremendous unpredictability to PCW’s releases; consider the Dread Head EP, where “Staring at the Sun,” with its “Gigantic”-aping bass line, shared space with the spasming skronk of “Tides” and the druggy, washed-out folk of “Bad Jeans.” Social Rust maintains this willful eclecticness. In fact, the album sounds like a CliffsNotes version of the last 40-some years of noise (or, at least, “noisy”) rock, beginning with a bastardization of The Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog” and ending with a dirge-like quasi-cover of perennial favorite “I Put a Spell on You.” In between, there’s some Holy Money-era Swans hiding out in “Public Shrine,” an exercise in plodding minimalism that balances Frye’s and Michael Etten’s wiry, atonal guitar work against drawn-out, single-note emissions from a piano, a saxophone, and drummer Shannon Sigley’s voice. There’s “Behind the Picture,” which sounds like Nirvana’s “Penny Royal Tea” re-imagined by The Melvins and injected with a touch of post-Sonic Youth krautrock. Throw in a generous helping of Butthole Surfers sonic manipulation and a dash of skuzzy garage rock guitar and you’ve got a pretty fair picture of the record.

As a curatorial exercise, Social Rust is easy to appreciate. In its eagerness to wear its influences on its sleeve, the album could be a close cousin to The Men’s early work, if more of their songs had been patterned off “L.A.D.O.C.H.” Yet there’s something unsatisfying about the record as a whole. The playfulness inherent to The Men’s appetite for appropriation doesn’t translate to PC Worship; the album is too overbearing to be much fun and too paint-by-the-numbers to feel dangerous. Despite some appealing aesthetic choices, it’s hard to feel much enthusiasm for Social Rust, particularly in a year when PC Worship’s contemporaries and forbearers have been cranking out such stunning alternatives.

Links: PC Worship - Northern Spy/Dull Tools

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