My immediate reaction to Static Thought’s self-titled was the miserable feeling that I lacked the vocabulary to describe it. I could say Fugazi-esque, but I’m sure it’s been said before with both more conviction and assuredness. The truth is, I haven’t heard a lot of bands like Static Thought. It’s almost as if they exist to fill a void, perhaps to make ‘progressive post-hardcore’ the new genre de jour. Fugazi-esque is fair, but it’d be a shame to describe them so glibly. Experimental to a fault, Static Thought’s self-titled is a thrilling musical achievement that represents a willingness to rewrite the formula, with both success and failure.
In researching Static Thought, I was incredibly surprised to find out they started as a fairly straightforward, if still pretty ferocious, street punk band. I’m not sure what happened between then and now, but it seems like they’ve hit the inevitable ‘maturing’ stage every band reaches. But to their credit, they make the most of it, pushing punk forward in new and interesting directions. “Blindfold” provides the compass, opening the album with a shouted, yet catchy, anthem held together by the band’s instrumentation. Almost as if the album was trying to defy my predictions, by the time the fourth track rolls around, the predilection for shouts is swapped for more singing and vocal hooks. “Fallen Grace Has No Place For Me,” also features some shouted gang vocals, a reverent reminder of the band’s street punk roots. After repeated listens, I found myself referring to it as the best song of the album. The next track, “The First Step,” is also more hook oriented, proving Static Thought is as comfortable with post-hardcore as pop. The next three tracks are short songs, breaking the album in half. The last three songs are more clearly indebted to Fugazi’s more aggressive material, but even with a lessened focus on melody, they succeed in being memorable.
At the expense of another Fugazi comparison, my biggest complaint with Static Thought’s self-titled is one that could just as easily be leveled at most of Fugazi’s catalog. With their adherence to experimentalism, progression, and genre traversing; listener engagement is often left by the wayside. There’s a lot of sound, and most of the time it’s very good sound, but seldom did I ever feel a connection to the music. As stated earlier, this isn’t a unique circumstance. Post-hardcore’s major genre indicator is the desire to push hardcore forward into uncharted territories, but more often than not, this is a purely sonic push–synthesizing an emotional reaction through music and lyrics is seldom a goal. The cold and clinical atmosphere is odd for a punk album, to the detriment of the product.
Static Thought has made a good record though, and that shouldn’t be forgotten. Street punk, with its rage and working class bravado aren’t something you can strip away completely. The backbone is still there, I just found myself wishing more of the heart was too.