[3 October 2013]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
Midnight Plus One’s members have a collective experience that reflects a veritable who’s-who of great bands from the N.C. Triangle—a scene just as strong (or stronger) as it was in those early-‘90s, next-Seattle days. Members have played in Americans in France, Black Skies, Milemarker, Trailer Bride, and countless other bands. But make no mistake, their first record as Midnight Plus One is no side act, and is as distinct and vital a rock record as you’ll hear all year. Casey Cook’s charming, not-quite-sneering cool leads us into these noir-ish punk-rock tunes, moving from the breathy spoken word of “Catacombs” to the haunting chug of “Hallway Highway” to the simmering energy of “Over Come Over”. Nick Senese and Pete Wagner craft hooks on guitars that can both slice through and tangle up with each other. They’re capable of razor’s edge tenacity and mysterious gauze. Those hooks are driven by the propulsive, incendiary rhythms from drummer John Bowman and bassist Michelle Temple.
These hard, driving rock songs seem straightforward, but repeated listens reveal curious complications, where cooing background vocals soften the edges of these songs and, on epic standout “Knifes on the Beach”, the band deals in shadowy murk with intensity and complexity, carving out negative space around its thorny yet muscled sound. Midnight Plus One is an impressive first release, a pure rock ‘n roll call to arms that isn’t afraid to experiment within that purity. With a sound as sleek and rugged as black leather, this would be a band not to mess with, if their songs weren’t so damn inviting.