Sex Church Growing Over

[Load; 2011]

Styles: post punk, garage, doom, gloom
Others: Magazine, Bauhaus, Blank Dogs, The Men, Pop. 1280

It’s a damn fine time to be fan of scuzzball punk sludge. 2012 has come howling out the gate with the promise of both a new release from Pop. 1280 at the end of January and The Men’s follow-up to last year’s TMT-approved Leave Home in March. Add to that tantalizing menu of rancid noise Growing Over, the late 2011 debut full-length from Sex Church. The Vancouver quartet likes to piss in the same river as their brothers from Brooklyn, digesting a broad spectrum of 80s post punk and straining it through the filthy gauze of garage rock. But while The Men seem to gravitate (mostly) towards the pricklier textures of the American scene, Growing Over has a distinctly European flavor. Soaked in cavernous reverb and great shimmering walls of distortion, the songs wouldn’t sound out of place on a mixtape next to Magazine, The Chameleons, even Bauhaus.

The strongest songs on Growing Over manage to synthesize the band’s influences in deliriously unexpected ways. “Waking Up” grinds along on a swollen bass groove while guitarists Levon and Caleb (first-name basis only with these guys) create an unholy racket, instantly recalling both the hypnotic drone of The Birthday Party’s “Junkyard” and the chainsaw-in-a-whirlwind guitar vandalism of early Jesus and Mary Chain. “Dull Light” finds the band switching gears to more up-tempo fare, with an almost jangly guitar riff that could be the sound of Joy Division doing an impression of The Pastels.

Drifting through the cacophony is Levon’s ghoulish monotone. Landing somewhere between Howard Devoto and a young Peter Murphy, his voice slums it down in the center of the mix, echoing like the voice of a drunkard fallen into a well. It fights a pitched battle against the feedback squall, advancing and retreating over the same few meters of ground with every skirmish. The semi-improvised “Beneath the Bottom” features his most unhinged vocal performance of the entire album. Wedding a galloping Krautrock rhythm with Levon’s shrieking guitar and rabid-dog yowls, the song could be the estranged twin sister of The Men’s “Night Landing.”

Growing Over is a magnificent downer, a saturnine behemoth swathed in a noxious mist of feedback haze. It’s fun to try to reverse-engineer the songs, to trace each sound, stroke, and tone back to its decades-old point of origin, but the pleasures of doing so are only secondary to the pants-wetting ecstasy of steeling yourself against the next pounding wave of drone. You might as well mail me some donation envelopes, Sex Church; as long as you guys are making records like this, I’ll be a regular parishioner.

Links: Sex Church - Load

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