Release Date: Feb 19, 2016
Record label: Sub Pop
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Like a good horror movie, there is something intensely satisfying about music that comes from a deep, dark place. Sure, it may not be the heartwarming stuff that puppies, babies and Taylor Swift are made from, but it is, I would argue, a necessary component of the human condition to explore this menacing space on occasion.
It's hard to talk about this Seattle trio of noisemakers without mentioning Nirvana. Both sonically and geographically, the specter of the grunge icons hovers over So Pitted, from their love of ugly-but-catchy guitar lines to their no-aesthetic aesthetic. When those guitars hit, 30 seconds into "No Nuke Country," you can feel the phantom land.neo album gives a sense of late '80s/early '90s grunge history folding in on itself.
Every once in a while a label pops up that completely defines a sound, and sometimes even an era. The Sixties had the golden sounds of Motown, the Eighties had the shimmering weirdness of 4AD, and the Nineties was the heyday of perhaps the stickiest, fuzziest label of all time: Sub Pop. From conception in 1986 the label cemented its place in musical history, releasing record after recording of the greatest loser rock the world has ever heard.
Melodies are all well and good, but they’ll only get you so far. Sometimes all you wanna hear is something that’ll crush you into the ground. Step forward Seattle’s So Pitted: a trio for whom no riff is complete unless it fully articulates the sensation of stuffing one’s head in a blender while falling down a spiral staircase. At times (Pay Attention To Me, Rot In Hell), their chief inspiration point seems to be Nirvana’s seething grind through Devo’s Turnaround, but their gleeful dedication to deafening scree also calls to mind both No Age and TAD’s 8-Way Santa; each staring longingly at the other before smashing themselves together, skull-first.
The term “negative” gets a bad rep. Often it’s associated with the most common definition: “not desirable.” Yet, it also means the absence of something, which is a powerful concept. The theory of wormholes is totally dependent on the idea of negative mass keeping them from imploding. It’s the balance against the positive that keeps many aspects of our universe in check.
About a month ago, I witnessed the Seattle fuzz-driven art slack of So Pitted, an ambitious rock trio whose colorfully dolled-up, indie-bred set impressed me enough to want to check out their then as yet to be released debut LP, neo. Opening for Sub Pop heavy-hitters METZ, So Pitted worked in thoughtful, if not completely thought out, modes of amplified frenzy and conceptual rough drafts that applied generous dabs of DEVOlution to their overall presentation. And while I felt the band needed to grow somewhat into its vision, I could see that there was something to So Pitted.
The debut LP from Seattle-based noise-rock/slacker-punk trio So Pitted, who gleaned their name from a popular YouTube video that featured a surfer uttering the phrase after a particularly gnarly ride, could only have arrived via Sub Pop. Neo's adherence to the sonic might of bands like Tad, Mudhoney, early Jesus and Mary Chain, and pre-Nevermind Nirvana (toss back a shot of Pigface for good measure while you're at it) speaks to the label's more punk-minded heyday. Like their closest sonic contemporaries, the similarly discontent and decibel-hungry Pissed Jeans, So Pitted revel in the primal uneasiness of youth, alternating between Stooges-esque cocksureness ("Cat Scratch") and unfiltered twentysomething despair ("Pay Attention to Me") without ever letting the needle drop below maximum volume.
Punk is officially over the hill at this point, having passed its 40th birthday: Blow out the candles and buy it some gag gifts. As the oldest musicians reckon with maturity in a genre that was developed for and by their young and reactionary selves, and successive generations of musicians discover the grit and power of an increasing number of subgenre styles, the dialogue about what's punk and what isn't gets increasingly tangled. At the core of every single one of those subgenres, though, and therefore residing somewhere at the core of punk itself, is minimalist force—sometimes pure id, sometimes reflexive egoic commentary thereon, sometimes both at once.
Based in Seattle and signed to Sub Pop, So Pitted don’t so much relive grunge’s heady days as rip up the formula entirely. In fact, the trio don’t remotely resemble their heroes. But it’s difficult to say exactly where their distorted, junk food punk stems from. Whenever debut LP ‘neo’ swerves close to normality, these formula-shunners tear things to shreds.
Consisting of multi-instrumentalist co-frontmen Liam Downey and Nathan Rodriguez, plus ballet dancing, Cocteau Twins-obsessed guitarist Jeannine Koewler, So Pitted are the latest bunch of nihilism-streaked refuseniks to bring the noise from Seattle. Their band’s curious moniker reputedly derives from a surfing-related slacker phrase which roughly approximates as having the determination to follow through on something you’ve started. It’s fitting, as this youthful trio certainly have the courage of their convictions on neo, their torpedo-damning blast of a debut that takes no prisoners whatsoever.