Washer : Improved Means to Deteriorated Ends
The rumors are true: Washer have returned. After back-to-back records in 2016 and 2017 of hook-laden rock similar to a sunnier Sebadoh or Pile at their poppiest, the dynamic DIY duo reemerge refined and in true form. The Brooklyn-Philly band’s third record, Improved Means to Deteriorated Ends was sorta finished at the beginning of 2020, and I bet you can sorta guess what happened next. A scrapped tour, an album’s worth of material, and a lot more free time sent Mike Quigley and Kieran McShane back to the drawing board. Instead of wallowing in creative misery, the pair became determined to tweak the new songs into their most enlightened record yet.
Improved Means to Deteriorated Ends includes only four tracks from the original batch of material meant to be recorded in early 2020. Washer never stopped writing, and by April 2022, they had amassed a reserve of songs before heading up to The Barn in Panton, Vermont to record with Nick Dooley, who also recorded All Aboard and Here Comes Washer. With old digs and a fresh creative mindset, the band hit the ground running. Improved Means to Deteriorated Ends is signature Washer, only the band sounds as intentional as ever.
There’s a noticeable growth in Mike Quigley’s words after years touring the northeast DIY circuit before the pandemic. The seasoned vocalist openly embraces these growing pains on “Not Like You,” acknowledging his present self while pondering the past, singing, “Feelin’ better up in my head/I’m drinkin’ less, I read instead/Where did he go? I dunno.” “Three Jeers” finds Quigley making time, setting plans, and staying in. The singer later muses on creativity and productivity with “The Itch,” examining the role of self expression in a goal-oriented society.
Improved Means takes things a bit more seriously, and Quigley’s matured words thrive with imagery. “Waning Moon” ties a scene with the lines “Habits formed in a life of death/Set intentions as well as can be set/The waning moon comes to collect.” Later, “Death of an Empire” wriggles and rolls into a realizing chorus: “All the wrong people love themselves/See only mirrors, poison wells.”
Effective arrangements allow Washer’s introspection to hit harder; their songs always marinate with subtle pop sophistication. Tracks like “Coward” offer hooks as quickly as they’re withdrawn. “Dull knife twisting inside/Daylight fading/Stop gap,” Quigley sings before a crumbling pop plea: “Jerry-rig my fucking heart.” In classic Washer fashion, “Coward” pulls a bait and switch through tense progression and a relieving hook. “Fail Big” is wildly ambitious, almost contradictory, finding Washer hitting melodic-highs with understated, low-end instrumentation. The band are masters at wielding control between immediacy and nuance. They always go for it, but never overdo it.
Washer’s first two records sounded knee-jerk, a compliment to the band’s undeniable melodic charm. The songs seemed to spill out of Keiran McShane and Mike Quigley. They made it look easy, and they let the music speak for itself. With Improved Means to Deteriorated Ends, Washer add more intention to a scrappy, determined approach. “Move through the day/One task at a time,” Quigley sings on closer “Cheap Therapy,” “Cause hands put to purpose/Can quiet the mind.” Even when one feels the unmeasurable weight of one’s own worth, Washer find grounds for creative resolve.
Label: Exploding In Sound