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Solids

Blame Confusion

(Fat Possum; US: 18 Feb 2014; UK: 24 Feb 2014)

Punk Two-Piece From Canada Gets Fuzzy

Solids are a Montreal based two-piece consisting of drummer Louis Guillemette and guitarist Xavier Germain-Poitras, who also provides vocals. What sets them apart (somewhat) from the two-piece guitar/drums pack of White Stripes, Black Keys, Little Hurricane, Viva Voce, Black Pistol Fire, Pretty Lightning—whew! That list is getting long—et al. is that their attack comes from a more punk angle than a blues-rock one. That said, the pair fight against the inherent limitations of the two-piece format, as do all of their contemporaries, and although they manage to put up pretty good resistance, their chops will take them only so far.


The ride is pretty fun for a while. Opener “Over the Sirens” introduces the listener to Germain-Poitras’s preferred guitar tone, which is muddy and thick and crackling with distortion, even as his Perry-Ferrell-esque vocals lurch above the cacophony. That same description could be applied to any number of songs here, including follow up number “Off White”, which shares enough in common with the previous song that it’s easy to mistake it for the same one. Songs here tend to halt abruptly and start the same way, and if you’re not paying attention, you may find yourself midway through song number six when you thought you were still listening to number three.


That said, there is some variety here in terms of style and structure. The band could easily have released a string of two-minute Ramones clones, but takes the time instead to vary things a bit. The operative phrase here is “a bit”. Tempos do remain for the most part in the fast-to-very-fast range, but at least lengths vary from under two minutes to more than five. There are occasional interludes in dynamics and tempo, although listeners looking for significant solo breaks are going to come away disappointed.


Guillemette’s drumming is…fine, but adds little to these compositions. This is Germain-Potras’s show all the way. However, his singing remains so buried beneath layers of guitar noise that his lyrics remain virtually indistinguishable. The tunes benefit from recognizable melodies much of the time, but God knows what he’s singing about—he could be praising Satan, or beers and girls, or Dick Cheney, and we’d be none the wiser.


The best songs here are those that find a groove and then milk it a while. The (slightly) less-frantic-than-usual “Haze Away” falls into this category, as does the positively laid back “Laisser Faire”, which lowers the distortion level enough for recognizable guitar strumming to leak through the wall of sound. “Through the Walls” builds nicely from its stark opening chords, though it reaches full strength so fast that there isn’t anywhere for it to go after the first minute or so. The same could be said for album closer “Terminal”, with its lulling vocals and fuzzed-out dreaminess.


Solids are a band with undeniable talent and potential, but Guillemette and Germain-Poitras need to refine their technique a bit. There is little to be gained by turning all the knobs to 11, all the time. Many of these songs would benefit from a bit of contrast in terms of dynamics and tempos. And oh yeah, it would be great to understand a few lines of lyrics here and there.

Rating:

DAVID MAINE is a novelist and essayist. His books include The Preservationist (2004), Fallen (2005), The Book of Samson (2006), Monster, 1959 (2008) and An Age of Madness (2012). He has contributed to The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, Esquire.com and NPR.com, among other outlets. He is a lifelong music obsessive whose interests range from rock to folk to hip-hop to international to blues. He currently lives in western Massachusetts, where he works in human services. Catch up with his blog, The Party Never Stops, at davidmaine.blogspot.com, or become his buddy on Facebook (or Twitter or Google+ or whatever you prefer) to keep up with reviews and other developments.


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