Frigs are an abrasive bunch. From the beginning of “Doghead,” the leadoff track on the band’s debut album Basic Behaviour, the Toronto band sets out to disorient and upset one’s sense of equilibrium. Guitar strings scrape. Riffs seem to phase in and out of each measure, as if broadcast holographically. And vocalist Bria Salmena repeats the phrase, “He puts his tongue in sorted pies.” It feels uncomfortable, sordid, strange—and that’s before she let’s out a fierce shriek around the 55 second mark.
Frigs’ Basic Behaviour isn’t specifically an exercise of endurance or provocation, but the band tests its listeners a bit before letting the hooks come out. “Doghead” is a prickly way to introduce their brand of scratchy, tone-abusing post-punk, but it’s not necessarily representative of the whole. Rather it’s a bit of a warning—what lies ahead will often be melodic, frequently thrilling and consistently intense, but not always friendly. Yet those who’d let that get in the way of progressing deeper into the band’s twisted sounds would be missing out on a fiery art-punk experience.
When the band hits a groove, as they do in the minimal punk jangle of “Talking Pictures,” they balance tension with immediacy brilliantly. Yet more often than not the band is content to let a moment linger, however unsettling or ominous. The verses of “Solid State” rumble with a tense, descending bassline as guitars ring out with a metallic sheen, seemingly suspended in time before the chorus breaks the tension. At their catchiest, on “II” and “Chest,” the band has a dark allure that stands up to the best moments of vintage Siouxsie and the Banshees or Xmal Deutschland, but catchiness is just a small part of their approach, and a sometimes elusive one at that. They’re just as likely to draw inspiration from even more dangerous, fucked-up places, building up a twisted dirge of detuned strings and mangled melodies on the slow-moving, increasingly terrifying “Waste.” When Salmena screams, “I am a fortune teller!“, it’s hard not to get the idea that the future she reads will likely involve some kind of violent demise.
That Frigs allow themselves the freedom to fuck with their compositions and wrench them away from more overt commercial instincts makes them far more interesting than a lot of bands in their position right now. Though there’s nothing wrong with playing on post-punk’s aesthetics to ultimately make pop music, Frigs move in an opposite function, using pop as a tool to explore darker spaces. The more fucked-up they get, the more transcendent the sound.