In past pieces, this humble reviewer has been more than happy to pontificate for paragraphs on the absurdity of certain sub-genres of the all-encompassing rock ilk. The safety pinned, bastard spawn of rock, “punk” is not without it’s own countless versions of silly sub-species. The most troubling of which would be the “noise punk” sect. Feeling the need to add the prefix noise to a genre who’s purpose was the grab the attention of its audience through, well, really loud and fast music is akin to the health warnings on cigarette packs; we all knew punk was noisy, that was it’s thing, no? The sad fact is that noise punk fancies itself better than the genre it came from; check that, smarter than the genre it come from. Subversive in spirit but almost unlistenable in more than 90 second spurts, noise punk polarizes people in the same way a high school dance does; those who get it on one side (the Wolf Eyes faithful who find a sense of intellect and cool in migraines) and those who don’t (easily manipulated mammals (read: normal people) who live off of “stale” indie rock and use far too many parentheses). So let me get this straight, if ignorance is bliss, would that make enlightenment a Locust concert?
Parts & Labor were at interesting position with their second release for Jagjaguwar Mapmaker, not a position that would either yield artistic recalcitrance or mainstream success but one of a similar scenario, a scenario of settling or progressing. Giving in to the noise punk staple would be have been easy, too easy for a band who showed so much promise and far too much know how on last year’s Stay Afraid. It naturally followed then that Parts & Labor would have to be the bigger band and show that maturity breeds restraint and with restraint comes inspiration.
From the onset, Mapmaker comes at you like a seizure induced, sonic hissy fit breaking barriers of sound as well as vital aural canals. But this notion is certainly shed quickly with songs such as track one, side one—”Fracuted Skies” a song opening itself up mid-way through to a wider spectrum of melody and fusing itself into a punk sensibility that is more head bopping than it is limb flailing.
Parts & Labor never settle into a diet of steady pace or predictable structure, which makes Mapmaker an album dedicated to being (wait for it) all over the map. Though what does remain a constant for the band seems to be dual vocal delivery of Dan Friel and BJ Warshaw. Both nasal and far from overstated, the vocal chords match well with the backbone of the outfit, drummer Chris R. Weingarten. Tracks such as the hyper-anthemic “Long Way Down” see genius co-exist in the form of lock-step drumming and vocal lines that add to a never ending rising action whereas “Unexplosions” showcases a technical talent far beyond that of the dumbed-down drone lords or feedback vegans that share scene time with P&L, with Weingarten furious eight-armed attack and the group’s shifting abilities that keep all on their toes for the next movement of the earth.
Parts & Labor could never be accused of a mono-elemental modus operandi as their unearthly approach crisscrosses behind the bend and through again and produces ultimately highly listenable and creative art that does no use to bear in mind labels. It’s nothing so shockingly new as much as it something that is certainly refreshing. Noise punk could never sound this sweet.
MP3: “Fractured Skies”