Just as you’d expect from a band called Fist City, the debut album from this Lethbridge four-piece shows about as much delicacy as a punch to the face. Nearly all of Everything Is a Mess is thickly blanketed in fuzz and murky reverb, with thundering drums and strangled shouts at every turn. This no-holds-barred approach means that the LP packs a wallop, but ultimately feels a lot longer than its 38-minute runtime.
The album starts off strong, as “Fuck Cops” achieves a grandeur beyond its lo-fi sonics thanks to an onslaught of fuzzy chords akin to PS I Love You’s 2010 debut Meet Me at the Muster Station or perhaps Japandroids at their most punk-oriented. The song doesn’t have much thematic nuance — the only audible lyrics are about a “racist pig” with a red face — but the fretwork is both melodic and muscular.
From there, “Let’s Rip” displays a fondness for pop-punk with its call-and-response refrain and wordless, “ooh”-ing hook, while “Hey Little Sister” and “Bad Trip” contain urgent shout-along choruses.
By the second half of the collection, however, exhaustion begins to set in. Nearly all of the songs have a similar tempo and near-identical arrangements, with the fuzz pedals permanently set on maximum and the vocals always fighting to be heard above the racket. The short instrumental interludes help to break up the monotony (six of the 17 tracks are feedback interludes that clock in at around a minute or less), but Everything Is a Mess is nevertheless fairly narrow in scope. This means that some solid late-album moments, such as the cyclical four-note riff that emerges in the final passage of “End of the Good Times” or the dialogue-sampling jam of epic-length closer “The Mess,” don’t have as much impact as they should.
For now, Fist City is a solid rock band and Everything Is a Mess is effective in its speaker-frying noisiness. But if the group can learn to incorporate a little more diversity and texture into its soundscapes, there could be even greater things in its future. That sense of unfulfilled promise makes this record intriguing rather than wholly satisfying.