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Posted on May 20th, 2010 (1:58 pm) by Peter Schauf

When I recommended the chick punk outfit Vivian Girls to my girlfriend, her pithy reply was “does punk even exist anymore?” Aside from reaffirming my admiration of her, this question made me think. For such an inherently anti-label label as punk, what does it mean to be “punk” in this day and age? Thinking about this conundrum from a different perspective, it’s comparable to modern art. In the heyday of punk, or say, the Dadaist art movement, there was legitimate potential for a counter-culture to develop. However, now it’s 2010 and pretty much anything that can arguably be considered culture has been countered. Whether you call it punk, post-punk, post-post-punk, or art punk (as I see it), Black Bug’s self-titled debut is compelling. To me, true punk isn’t concerned with the popular hang-ups such as what particular brand of noise it sounds like or how it is received. In short, Black Bug are not that.

My vote is for art-punk for little more reason than the artfully poor production. The pointedly crass disposition of the album feels a little frenetic at first, but seamless transitions are not always the best path to successful album flow. Especially when considering the tracks that verge on unpleasantness, the latent benefits of the album’s construction become apparent. The buzz saw quality of the synth on tracks like “Unicorn” and “Beating Your Heart Out” would be mostly unbearable without the mercurial deviations between each track. “Mental Ray” at a little over two minutes is as long as any of these studies in the dark side of melody lasts.

Officially, the duo is comprised of synth and drums, but it sounds more like a drum and bass duo along the lines of Death From Above 1979, or maybe they’re The Mates of States’ evil twins. Lily’s synth is just as versatile as Kori Gardner’s keys but has a penchant for malice and destruction. From droning along in hazy exaltation, as in “Fell in Love With,” to the comparatively sprightly cadence of “The Wave,” Lily spins what could easily be depressing into a truly fascinating track. The fact that the most decidedly post-punk track, “Inside Out,” is stuck between two of the album’s (dare I say) charming instrumentals is enough to keep this band out of the muck.

As much praise as I can heap on this engagingly compact LP, it’s certainly not for everyone. For starters, be prepared for the less hip (and probably better adjusted) to shout at you to turn that racket down. There aren’t any standout tracks here to be readily dog-eared; it’s more about the experience. The upside is that it’s not just noise for the sake of noise. So go ahead, wear that disdain like a badge of honor. If you can put forth the necessary effort that this LP deserves, you’ve earned it.

Track List:
1. Razor Face
2. Well Well
3. Run
4. Mental Ray
5. Inside Out
6. The Wave
7. I’ve Got Eyes
8. Unicorn
9. Billy Montana
10. S.R.A.
11. Beating Your Heart Out
12. Untergang
13. Make Her
14. Fall in Love With
15. Absorbing Hearts

Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

80 / 100
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