[10 August 2005]
Frodus have broken up again, and I’m quite upset about it. Sure, they were going by the name Decahedron, and their website officially states that they are on “indefinite hiatus”, but we all know what that means—the term “hiatus” usually equates to “disbanded”, and exceptions to the rule are generally few and far between. It’s a damn shame too, as Washington D.C. finds itself bereft of another astonishingly progressive post-punk band; after the dissolution of such notable acts like the Dismemberment Plan and Q and Not U, it seems as if the District bleeds more talent than it can produce.
Let’s play catch-up for a moment here, for all the fine folks who might not be in the know. Frodus—composed of guitarist/vocalist Shelby Cinca, drummer Jason Hamacher, and an ever-changing cast of bass players—were a criminally underrated punk band from the Capitol, neighbors and peers to Dischord’s glory years and the burgeoning scene the label was nourishing. They released four LPs and a number of EPs and 7"s over a period of six years, honing their chaotic blend of art-damaged math-punk and furious hardcore into a subgenre that would affectionately become known as “spazzcore” (a term originally coined by Cinca himself). Their swansong And We Washed Our Weapons in the Sea was a near-masterpiece and an instant D.C. classic, seamlessly combining seemingly disparate acts like Born Against, Suicide, and Drive Like Jehu into a cohesive whole. It was just a crying shame that their best, most defining album was also ostensibly their last.
This being the case, longtime fans were greatly surprised and elated when Cinca and Hamacher announced, over three years later, that they would reunite once again: first under the Black Sea moniker (which was quickly dropped due to legal issues) and then as Decahedron. Their follow-up releases easily fulfilled the vicious promise made by And We Washed . . ., sounding like the logical extension to the groundwork laid down in their years as the Frodus Conglomerate International. Adding dub and psychedelic elements to their already impressive sonic arsenal, Decahedron’s debut LP, Disconnection Imminent, was, while not perfect, an extraordinarily promising debut, brimming with potential.
I suppose this is why the new EP, 2005, is a bit disappointing. The album is a little out-of-time and out-of-place, a space-killer release designed to satiate the fans between proper full-lengths. Of course, that’s not to say that 2005 is bad or is full of filler—it’s anything but. However, the EP—much like their debut—is a bit of a tease, a primer promising much greater things to come; the disappointing aspect arises when one realizes that there is a good chance those greater things might never come to pass.
The album opens up with “Movement A”, a dark, droning instrumental recalling shades of Can and Metal Box-era PiL. Propelled by a throbbing bass, stuttering drums, and overlaid with noisy, scraping guitar figures, the track drips menace and vitriol, like a seething cauldron that continually threatens to boil over and explode. The song is immediately followed by “Terrhetoric”, a splintered burst of Dischord-esque post-hardcore energy. Pinned down by strangely off-kilter interactions between the bass and drums, the track sounds as if it’s about to fall apart at the slightest provocation, only held together by Cinca’s abrasive, angular guitar-work and throat-fracturing vocals.
The best track on the album, “We Are Virus”, comes in squarely in the middle of the tracklisting. Hamacher and bassist Jake Brown lock-in like puzzle pieces and provide a compelling, dynamic groove, laying down a solid foundation for the bursts of sound released from Cinca’s anxious, frenetic instrumentation. And even if overtly political lines like “Presidential erection / Obtuse election” look a little silly on paper, they never come off as anything less than critical through the speakers, the ardor in Cinca’s voice instilling these otherwise banal lyrics with both conviction and urgency.
Unfortunately, the rest of the EP is rather ho-hum; there’s an uninspired cover of Cop Shoot Cop’s “Cause and Effect”, a somewhat goofy and noisy take on Bauhaus’s “Scopes” that sounds like 13 Songs-era Fugazi channeling an utterly pissed Peter Murphy, and a monotonous, sludgy spoken word piece called “Ageless” that lasts about two minutes longer than it should.
I would normally say that three good songs would not make any single release worthy of purchase, no matter how excellent the tracks are; however, Decahedron and the folks at Lovitt were nice enough to include the band’s full performance from MACRock 2004, a yearly music festival hosted by James Madison University’s radio station. The video was edited together from various cameras, the audio was ripped straight from the board, and the entire package is presented in a gloriously high-res Quicktime .mov file. Cinca always puts on a good show, no matter what project he might be fronting, and it’s to the band’s credit that they threw an incredibly entertaining and explosive performance, despite a largely apathetic audience. The video by itself makes this disc worthy of purchase, considering that it might be quite awhile before anyone gets another chance to see Cinca assault his guitar like a man possessed, or to watch the steel-armed Hamacher thrash his kit with the brute finesse of a heavyweight champion; we can only hope that Decahedron’s hiatus is indeed temporary, and that Cinca and co. will have lost none of the spit and fire that made their recordings and performances so compelling.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/decahedron-2005/