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(Lovepump United; US: 21 Sep 2007; UK: Available as import)

Bubbles don’t form on smooth surfaces, and Health apparently knows this. On their first full length, this loud outfit from Los Angeles gives you an album full of noise experiments butting up against selections only slightly more recognizable as songs. And while the tracks run together, you can hardly call the album seamless. In fact, Health seems determined to let the seams show here, hitting the listener with its walls of wailing guitars and thumping, Viking-ship-cadence drums that shift time signatures inside the songs only slightly quicker than they switch between songs. It’s an album that never lets the listener get comfortable: slamming snares seemingly out of time; guitars that sound like their necks are snapping; and somehow mixed into all of this are vocals which are, actually, quite beautiful. “Triceratops” has the band going at breakneck—tilted-ever-so-slightly—speed, until enough of the noise cuts out to hear vocals that are haunting, even lilting. The contrast between the band’s wailing bluster and the fragile airy vocals is both an unpredictable and welcome movement away from the screams that often populate this sort of noise rock. Health proves with this brief offering that they can, in small ways, turn noise on its head, and offer something new in a genre that seems particularly prone to recycling. Health will scratch at you every chance it gets, scouring the smooth surfaces, making way for the bubbles, and eventually you will boil over.


Matthew Fiander is a music critic for PopMatters and Prefix Magazine. He also writes fiction and his work has appeared in The Yalobusha Review. He received his M.F.A. in Creative Writing from UNC-Greensboro and currently teaches writing and literature at High Point University in High Point, NC. You can follow him on Twitter at @mattfiander.

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