Rahim : Ideal Lives
Bands like Rahim are the reason that the term “post-punk” exists. It’s so tempting to call them a punk band, but given the chance to offer up any evidence of what makes them so, nothing comes to mind. I mean, there are guitars and basses and drums and all that, but they’re combined in such an unconventional manner and with little regard for straightforward structures that it’s hard to classify them under such a primitive and oversimplified notion. So we use the catch-all, the one that suggests a punk influence though not the actual punk categorization. And that should be satisfying, but it doesn’t really say anything about them.
Michael Friedlich, Philip Sutton and Ryan McCoy play an odd sort of punk-influenced rock that borders on the exotic while keeping at least one foot firmly planted in their post-hardcore roots. As they demonstrated on their debut EP Jungles, the New York trio can play a wiry, taut tune without resorting to a power chord or even a verse-chorus-verse structure. But seeing as how they’ve found a home on Frenchkiss Records, they have to at least rock a little, right? And rock they do.
Friedlich’s guitars jab, McCoy’s bass lunges, and Sutton’s drums snap, like a three-way battle royale for control of the song. Yet their oddly syncopated rhythms and parabolic harmonies find convergence in their unwillingness to move in linear fashion. “Klangklangklang” and “Something From an Amputee,” as unconventional sounding as they are, start to become catchy after repeated listens, hypnotically resonating long thereafter. “10,000 Horses” starts to approach straightforward with its repetitive riffs and intriguing lyrics: “We have the power of 10-thousand horses/there are enough of us to fill up the sky.” Yet Friedlich’s manic chugging on “Desire” even begins to resemble actual chords, while the band’s angelic harmonies of “someone to satisfy” during the chorus take it to loftier heights.
By the time “Forever Love” starts, it’s clear that with each coming track, Rahim gets closer to accessibility, making the album’s centerpiece a sweet, simple acoustic pop number that has everything to do with hooks and little to do with melodic angularity. Just as quickly as the pendulum swings toward catchy, it descends again toward unconventionality. “Shut Off The Light” consists of only drums and vocals until a minute or so into the song, “Enduring Love” mines Blonde Redhead’s chosen path of artsy noir-rock, and closer “In the Kitchen” creeps along slowly with a sinister slither, reaching peak weirdness and closing the album on an eerie note. Through this bell curve toward and subsequently away from straightforward songwriting, Rahim demonstrates just how complex a band can sound with only slight alterations on a central approach.
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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.