There are only a handful of artists that I can think of who actually seem to be their own genre. Eccentric, yet prolific recluse Jandek is one of them. Steve Albini is another. And Lungfish, unfailingly, is the best example. With each album, the Baltimore quartet churns out minimal, yet hard-hitting post-hardcore. It’s a marriage of poetic lyricism and sludge rock that seems peculiar at first, but makes sense after listening to them. I would have liked to have actually witnessed the group meeting where they came up with that pairing. But alas, I was not, and here we are after a decade and a half, with the band’s tenth release. They’re the longest running band on Dischord, aside from Fugazi, of course, and, it seems, the most consistent as well.
On Feral Hymns, Lungfish isn’t straying far from their well-worn path of low-end murk, but they aren’t disappointing either. They’re quite aware of their strengths and those strengths happen to be bassy, swampy riffs, played with a seemingly oxymoronic restraint. They rock, but not too hard. And they’re heavy, but they’re certainly not out of control.
Opener “All Creation Bows” has a subtle intensity about it. The guitar seems lazy and groove-based, but every note is played ever so harshly. Every drum beat seems to shatter the floor. If you don’t stand up straight while you listen, it could give you a pretty serious back injury, I’m sure. “Time Is A Weapon of Time” isn’t quite as immediate, but grooves all the same. “Wailing Like Dragons” doesn’t really deliver its titular promise, but it’s a fine song. “You Are the War” reverts to the initial intensity of “All Creation Bows,” albeit with a fiercely screamed vocal by Daniel Higgs. “Sing,” however, is the best track on here, merely for its variation in riffage and juxtaposition between highs and lows.
Daniel Higgs’ lyrics are always a high point, poetic and strange, giving the band descriptions, bafflingly, of both “stoic” and “emo.” Some highlights include “you are the winding of the mammalian root” (“You Are the War”), “albino trees with scarlet wings bloom to express a soular cross of flesh” (“All Creation Bows”) and “resonate/love is light is sound is space” (“Wailing Like Dragons”). I have no idea what any of it means, but Higgs delivers his lyrics with such conviction, there must be some truth to it somewhere.
You can call it punk, emo, post-harcore, whatever you want. None of it and all of it fits. So file this one under: Lungfish. They’re still doing what they do best, and we can only hope that that tradition will live on.
Fugazi – The Argument
The Evens – The Evens
Lungfish – Necrophones
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.