In the wide expanse of music we call “indie rock,” there are genres within genres, many of which seem to be defined by locale. I don’t know if it’s just snobbery, but critics and scenesters refuse to use words like “post-hardcore” unless the style they speak of is in reference to a band from D.C. or Chicago, and very occasionally, Washington state and Kansas City. From time to time, bands pop up in other cities, playing similar music to the style pioneered by Shellac and Fugazi, yet they’d most likely be called “emo,” for lack of a better adjective.
Case in point: San Diego. For the last decade, bands like Drive Like Jehu, No Knife, aMiniature and Clikitat Ikatowi have proven America’s Finest City to be a hotbed for bands with punk sensibilities, mathematical precision and awe-inspiring innovation. Yet, somehow, when the post-hardcore party planners were handing out invitations, San Diego was left off the list and, as a result, becomes known only for pop-punk and folk rock yodelers.
But that didn’t stop Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower. These kids churn out a blend of dissonant guitar riffs and free-jazz breakdowns into an altogether fun blend of sounds that would fit in nicely alongside Nation of Ulysses and Q and Not U at a vegan social. But instead of merely attending this party, Plot crashes through the window, spikes the punch with turpentine, floods the kitchen, sets fire to the drapes and toilet papers the surrounding trees in less time than it takes to get through Repeater.
Plot’s debut album, Dissertation, Honey! is 29 minutes of experimental punk rock that challenges the listener, but invites him/her to have a good time. The album is sandwiched by two spoken word pieces, creating a noir-like atmosphere before (and after) the SoCal foursome unleashes a fury unlike anything seen this side of Steve Albini.
The first proper song, “Sometimes I Wish I’d Lost a Leg,” begins with a brief bass riff before charging into full-on 4/4 hardcore, changing gears into alternating drum breaks and a repeated group shout of “Now my hand’s in the hive!” The next track, “One Stab Deserves Another” is quite possibly the best thing to come out of Tijuana’s neighbor to the North since Tom Waits. Or not. But damned if it doesn’t feel good saying it. The song goes back and forth between rumbling bass and power chords to saxophone squeals and minor-sevenths, creating a concoction as complex as it is fierce. And these boys ain’t afraid to display their influences as well. At the end of “Johnny, You’re All Grown Up,” bassist Daniel Maier hammers out a riff from Miles Davis’ “So What” over some mathematically organized chaos.
The foursome tries their hand at some instrumental numbers as well, like “Funeral Procession,” a melodica and saxophone jam, and “Her Health Violation,” a Naked City-like free jazz skronkfest. But the lyrics add a political, human side to TPTBUTET’s unearthly clash of sounds. “For Marcus,” sung with the aid of Welchez’s girlfriend, deals with a true story about a teenage homosexual who commits suicide. And Welchez spits vitriol such as “nothing holds lies better than the Bourgeoisie/the flavor to compete against your favorite enemy,” on “Attached to the Hip.”
You know, maybe Plot isn’t post-hardcore. After all, they don’t seem to want to be pinned down by the baggage that comes with labels. Just as long as they don’t tour with New Found Glory or start dating Steve Poltz, they can crash any shindig they choose to.
Nation of Ulysses – The 13-Point Program to Destroy America
Drive Like Jehu – Yank Crime
Sweep the Leg Johnny – Sto Cazzo!
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.