One of the many bizarre things about how we engage with music is that, despite a band’s best intentions at trying something new, there are a million listeners, fans and critics ready to push them into a neatly identifiable category. It’s not even a negative thing. It’s just our nature, a way to connect something fresh with something familiar. Toronto trio the Beverleys aren’t necessarily curbing the conversation by opting to self-describe their sound as “junk punk,” but, damn, the tag certainly makes things easier for someone passing the word along.
Following an online presence, a split 7-inch release with Buzz Records labelmates Hsy and more, they’ve collected 10 tracks for their first full-length, Brutal. It, too, is a fitting title, with the punky tracks featuring a healthy smattering of dispirited lyrics, face-melting distortion and steadily crushed drums.
Opener “Bad Company,” which likewise led off last year’s self-titled EP, is a fast and mangled kiss-off to the titular shitty figure, and comes rife with RAT pedal-busting riffs and Susan Burke’s scratched-up vocal melodies. “Kissing With Braces” slows things down just slightly, and conjures anything from Black Flag’s “Gimme Gimme Gimme” beat to the downtrodden melodies of Bricks Are Heavy-period L7.
Much of Brutal’s sonics are tied to the still at-large ’90s revival. “Visions” is filtered through a veil of grunge-pop, and Burke’s lyrics land appropriately sardonic and bleak. “I want to be all by myself,” she asserts on the track, ahead of noting that friends, enemies, and other assorted negative creeps have been “hanging around this house.” Despite the sentiment, it’s one of the tracks that’ll likely keep listeners company for the next little while.
Though the Beverleys know their way around a deceptively bubble-gummy hook, “Stamp Glue” is the band at its most vicious. At a minute and twenty-six seconds long, it’s barely held together with a simple, sneering old school hardcore hook and tweaked-out vocals. In fact, a fifth of the song is straight-up feedback.
Comparatively, “Lemonade” sweetens things up, but there is something especially slapdash about how the couplets in each verse are capped with a clumsy and uninterested “oh no, oh no, oh no.” Though their “junk punk” pays off via the odd trashy, imperfect rhythm, this mumbled motif is one of the very few parts on the album that feels like a throwaway.
“Hush” is decidedly more potent, with hammer-down beats bashing just beneath Burke’s choked-out denunciation of someone that apparently really let her down. “It’s my turn to fuck with you,” she warns. “Promises” is performed with an equally critical gaze, though the speedy piece’s dose of melancholy melodies make it one of Brutal’s most enlightening moments.
Saving the best for last, the Beverleys give us a re-recorded version of “Hoodwink,” their song from the split release with Hsy. A fuzzy alt-rock anthem, it has Burke reporting, with no fucks given: “I don’t want to know you or show you everything.” That may be alright, as the Beverleys’ debut album has given up the goods for the junk punk faithful. It’d be a bit creepy to keep routing through their trash, anyways.
-review by Gregory Adams