[16 February 2011]
On Tyvek’s Nothing Fits, nearly everything fits. The photograph adorning the Detroit outfit’s sophomore album—a girl, masked and nearly naked, staring at dog figurine—should come off more disarming than it does. Instead, it falls in lock step with the closet box photography gracing the covers of this year’s Vampire Weekend and Dum Dum Girls albums. There’s also a very late-2000s anti-production attitude, appropriate for a gang from the Motor City playing head-rattling garage punk with empty pockets and snarl to spare.
L.A.-based outpost In the Red might be the best-named record label for Tyvek, as the group pushes the levels to the harsh extremes of no-fi loyalists Times New Viking and Eat Skull. Pushed front and center, the guitars sound as if they’ve been spit on and fed through a wood chipper, the mutilated remains shaken around in a rusty trash can. If you stick around, they’ll layer a trebly guitar line on the chunky riffs, as in “Underwater To”, the more accessible second part of two songs that form the warm little core of his album, sharing a title but not much else.
Few tricks subvert the Black Flag-influenced minimalism, but when they do, it’s a chilling delight. Three minutes in, “Outer Limits” takes a serious wrong turn off the road from Damaged territory, and ends up all the better for it, as distant sirens, lost whistles, and a dripping faucet ooze paranoia at every corner. Most people don’t come to a punk record looking for sonic risks; they’re here for the sonic reducers, songs taking rock back to its basic elements. Tyvek give us more of the latter on Nothing Fits (fittingly, the once-quintet has since stripped its sound to three members for maximum rawness), but while it might be good for moshing, it’s not altogether memorable outside of tempo. You could slap your knee at 120 BPM, “nah-nah” a couple alternating notes, and unintelligibly garble wails about your current problems, and a stranger could get the gist of it.
If Nothing Fits isn’t generous with the melodic end, the lyrics are still more sparse. Tyvek don’t take themselves too seriously, refreshing in an era where even the rambling punks carry pretense. It’s hard to tell what singer Kevin Boyer is on about, but unlike his sweaty, shirtless forefathers who were gunning for Reagan, that’s not the point here. Songwriting is clearly not the group’s strength, but there’s a certain workingman’s frustration that fuels its potential, with a road raging Boyer lashing out at people in the passing lane (“Just pricks in a car / Fuck off!”), fed up with money ruling his life (wanting “to move forward in time / Into the future / Fuck the cash part”). He knows how to make light of the mundane, too: “I think I’m Jesus / Fust got up from a nap / What’s so funny? / I look just like him” are the kinds of absurdist interjections that made torch-bearers of ‘60s anti-pop like the Monks so damn enjoyable.
Few punk numbers fail when they include some kind of countdown, and opening raver “4, 3, 1, 2” doesn’t miss, even laying on some oh-ohhh backing vocals for fans who like to sing at shows. Mostly though, Boyer’s vocals don’t stray far from a manic howl spiked with high wails for those words he wants to emphasize. The band might share a name with a synthetic fiber, but your comfort isn’t their concern—the music is as brittle as it gets. Bare bones is the way of the walk, and that’s great, but few of the songs on Nothing Fits approach the jet-fueled power punk of “4, 3, 1, 2” or the mindfuck wilderness in the coda of “Outer Limits”.
If checker-pattern shoes, split singles, or ‘zines have any significance to you, it’s worth cranking twice. For those with an indie record collection longer than any Christmas list, it will fit right in. It would just be nice if Tyvek would stand out more instead of quietly doing its job.