The Computers seem like a restless bunch. Not only in their music, which sounds very restless indeed, but in the fact that over the course of two albums, a couple EP’s and a few singles, they’ve transformed from (I’m simplifying here) a modern sounding hardcore punk band to a garage punk band with sounds very much anchored in that golden decade of frantic and groundbreaking rock and roll music, the 50’s, as well as splashes of 60’s soul and R&B.
That’s not to say the transformation has been night and day. Go back and listen to their debut full length ‘This Is The Computers’ and then listen to their latest ‘Love Triangles, Hate Squares’ out this past April on One Little Indian Records and beneath the throat pummeling screams and hard charging rhythm, you can hear the very hooks and soul inflected garageabilly that has been pulled forefront here for the first time in their five year recording career.
The emphasis is so pronounced that it if you are familiar with The Computers’ back catalogue, you may have trouble believing it’s the same band. Given that this was my first Computers’ experience, I had trouble believing their previous records were the product of the same band, assuming that two bands operating in different sub-genres shared the same moniker.
But a number of listens to both ‘Love Triangles’ and 2011’s ‘This Is The Computers’ reveal many similarities. For the most part anyway.
‘C R U E L’ is a ballad of the broken hearted with vocals that spell out feelings for the madam in question, letter by letter, in a very Aretha Franklin-ish way.
Album closer ‘Other People’s Single Beds’ is a similar song of relational difficulties between the sexes and is so impressive in its power and vocal prowess that it reminds of some of the songs that are sung on American Idol in the later rounds, when the contestants stop screwing around and start really pulling out the big guns (hey, my wife watches it, okay?)
But before you think this is a record made up of sappy balladry, making this an odd choice for review on a punk website, take heed, because the album opener, the brilliantly titled ‘Bring Me the Head of a Hipster’ is ripping garage punk poised to induce heavy amounts of hip shaking, toe tapping and other sinful pastimes. A song which, among others things, pays tribute to the original godfather of punk before the genre ever existed, Little Richard, with the refrain of ‘you keep on knockin’ but you can’t come in.’
Meanwhile, ‘Mr. Saturday Night’ uses copious amounts of keyboarding and ‘yeah yeah’ backing vocals over passionate rhythm and blues melodies to drive the energy home.
‘Disco Sucks’ is probably the most straight forward garage punk song on the record, with its chunky, driving rhythms and bright, Hives-y chorus putting its hook into your cheek with 80’s ideals, 70’s passion and modern sounds.
But if that isn’t enough, like popping your third Red Bull with your fourth cigarette hanging out of your mouth, your heart rate will increase within the first few seconds of ‘Selina Chinese’ in anticipation of what’s to come. Which is, as it turns out, more garage punk, with the added benefit of ivory shaking piano abuse at some very talented fingers. It’s a beautiful thing.
Right off the bat on ‘Love Triangles, Hate Squares’ there’s a definite (International) Noise Conspiracy thing happening, not least of all in the frantic, harried vocal delivery. But it isn’t long before the music takes on its own dimensions and evolves into something that sounds immediately familiar and yet hard to classify.
Their influences are varied and often easy to spot, but, like Quentin Tarantino to the film world, by taking bits and pieces of all that they love and using those bits to craft something new and altogether fresh sounding for 2013, The Computers are a unique product in this musical landscape we’ve deemed punk. Is there room for improvement? Of course, you don’t want a record to be too perfect, because then the next record will undoubtably be a disappointment.
Like Jean-Pierre Melville’s gangster movie classic, Le Samourai, or Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, which was highly influenced by it, or the soulful sounds of early Otis Redding (who himself went through a musical overhaul early in his career when he went from off the chain, frantic R & B to silky smooth Soul), The Computers make you feel cooler just by experiencing them.
2013 has, in my opinion, already been a banner year in punk releases. With Face To Face, Alkaline Trio, Swingin’ Utters, Stoj Snak, Paint It Black and Off With Their Heads all releasing some of the best records of their careers. And we’re only just dipping our toes into early summer’s tepid waters. So let’s not forget about the more under the radar bands, like The Computers, who have released one of the best records I’ve heard in the past few years. A band who won’t be under the radar much longer after this release, mark my words. And then you can say you were there first. You beat the bandwagon to the dance hall. Do you like to dance? No? Listen to this album, you will find a hidden affinity by the time ‘Call On You’ is airing its frustrations of always having to take the blame.
Add The Computers to My Radar