My early musical youth was cut on the all ages punk rock shows. Summers were filled with nights in sweaty clubs or basements, as band after disaffected, discontented band took the stage airing their concerns with the world through rage-filled guitars and vocals. My record collection quickly grew with LPs and 7"s of bands from labels as well-known as Discord to as obscure as the Great American Steak Religion. However, one record label that never made it into my collection was Revelation. Known for its more aggressively simple-minded, tough guy hardcore (Gorilla Biscuits, Chain of Strength, Youth of Today), it wasn’t the style of punk rock I gravitated toward. I had pretty well forgotten about the label entirely, thinking it had since retired from releasing records, until the completely surprising debut album by Call Me Lightning came across my desk.
The first thing that grabbed me when I picked up the disc was the surreal artwork. The cover illustration depicts an army of rats and a few errand octopi ravaging a medieval town. With the Revelation tag on the back of the record, I was still hesitant; however, from the opening note I quickly realized this wasn’t an ordinary punk rock release. What greeted my ears was a whip smart trio of indie rockers who had clearly taken notes from the likes of Shellac and the Jesus Lizard, and condensed it into a half hour aural assault unlike anything Revelation has brought forth before.
The intro for the first track sets the tone for the rest of the album. “We Be Dragons” comes out of the gate with the treble end fretwork of guitarist/lead vocalist Nathan Lilley and the efficient, propulsive percussion by drummer Shane Hochstetler. It takes a couple of tracks for the band to deliver its first resounding statement. “Asses to Ashes”, with its serpentine lead riff and round-the-world drumming, is the perfect one-two post-punk punch. “Golden Radical (Young Professional)” manages to maintain its sing-a-long vocal with the music only carried by primitive, yet rhythmic, bass and drum work. I can only imagine that when performed live, this is a showcase for Lilley to truly go nuts, being briefly disposed of his guitar slinging duties. With an opening melody that eerily recalls “Lump” by Presidents of the United States of America, “Horseflies” quickly becomes a tightly knit web of guitar and clockwork drumming that will have your head spinning.
All of the aforementioned songs are evidence of Call Me Lightning’s ability to write and execute three minutes of melodic mayhem. However, when the band moves to longer track times, the results are less effective. “We Be Dragons” is filled with energy to spare, but at four minutes, it’s far too much of a good thing. Album closer “Be the Lightning” (great song title) suffers from the same problem, throwing everything and the kitchen sink at the listener for nearly six minutes. It’s no surprise that the most memorable tunes are the ones that get in and get out in a timely manner.
But these are minor quibbles. The Trouble We’re In is a solid first effort from a band that will certainly have people thinking twice about the label it’s on. Call Me Lightning bring unchecked energy touched with a bit of madness to its debut that will have fans yelling “We Be the Lightning!” in no time.
// Notes from the Road
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