We can still dance. The COVID-19 health crisis put a temporary but extended hiatus on live music, which has led some musicians and promoters to come up with creative ways of bringing performances to audiences without exacerbating the problem. Some of them work, like professional quality live streams, and some of them really don’t—stop trying to make the drive-in concert happen, please. We’ll have to be patient and perhaps we’ll get more used to sharing these experiences through screens. But at least we can still dance.
New York’s Public Practice create an abrasive but highly physical kind of post-punk that can provide exactly the outlet for movement that feels so needed while our doors remain closed and faces hidden by masks. Descended from a long tradition of New York weirdo-funk that includes ESG, Liquid Liquid, Blondie and Talking Heads, Public Practice build on their jittery Lower East Side ancestors by balancing deep grooves with mesmerizing ambiance and frequently gorgeous melodies on debut album Gentle Grip. The stark bassline might be what propels a song like “Underneath,” but it’s the bubbly layers of synth, hypnotic vocal harmonies and art-punk guitar solo that makes it as much headphone fodder as it is prime dancefloor material.
To clarify: There’s not a single moment on Gentle Grip that doesn’t course with undeniable groove. Once the incredible Suicide-like pulse of “Moon” takes off, molecules start bouncing off of each other, the temperature rises and beads of sweat begin to trickle. Public Practice are on a mission to get you to move, grinding their way through the punchy Gang of Four scrape of “Disposable,” the wiry jangle of “Each Other,” the sinister and stark dub-punk of “See You When I Want To,” and the conga-driven funk skank of “My Head,” as immediate an anthem as you’re likely to find here. Though it’s not like anything here doesn’t hit the pleasure zone square in the bullseye.
Even at their sexiest or in their deepest funk, Public Practice employ a less-is-more approach, which only makes sense—they clearly learned from the best. But that starkness is what allows such subtle shifts in arrangement to make such a big impact on the shape of the song. And given that Gentle Grip is their debut, there’s still plenty of time for the band to work their way up to a maximalist Remain In Light approach, if they so choose. But this spectacularly taut collection of punk-funk anthems feels complete and cohesive even at its most open and airy. Stripped to its barest elements, it feels incredible—a perfectly danceable post-punk debut that sounds just as good through a home stereo as it does through a P.A. system.
Label: Wharf Cat
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.