[29 June 2005]
Full White Drag is yet another entry into the post-punk world that seeks to create a valid bridge between the rapidly fading ethos of punk rock and the more marketable world of melodic angst. It’s a tricky balancing act for any band. With so many genre distinctions being foisted upon the public (emo, screamo, a thousand subdivisions within indie-rock, post-post-punk, etc.) a cynical eye might see a band like Full White Drag as yet another pretender pulling a Trojan horse into your CD player by putting up a tough rockin’ post-punk front, when in reality its been groomed and packaged by handlers eager to squeeze every loose penny out of their desired demographic.
Fortunately Full White Drag’s five-song EP, Everything Will Fall on One Night, seems to find the band simply playing loud and hard with little concern for what’s going to move the most units. There are no DJs added to the mix, no clever forays into electro-beats, not even any of the typical quiet-loud-quiet-loud dynamic that seems to be so prevalent in mainstream (I’m talking KROQ, Live 105 indie) “independent” music.
Full White Drag seems intent on playing driving hard rock without the overt reliance on drop D tuning that so many bands from Simple Plan to Armor for Sleep count on to make their sound Rock (notice capital R, in which case word should be pronounced “rau-ck”). Instead Full White Drag uses more chaos than control on much of Everything Will Fall on One Night. The band eagerly embraces the noisy feedback-laden side of post-punk on opener “No Fire”. The song opens with a pummeling two-note bass line before a dissonant guitar squall begins. Lead singer Dave Mueller doesn’t sing as much as lash out with his vocal chords. He has a scratchy baritone that obscures most of his lyrics, but his intentions always seem to get communicated despite the lack of a defined vocabulary. “All I See” is a brooding mid-tempo dirge pierced by a high-pitched keyboard refrain that echoes intermittent stabs of guitar. By the time the song reaches the chorus the band feels ready to let loose a force its been holding back, but Full White Drag keeps the tension building through to the end, keeping our expectations at bay before exiting with two thunderous chords.
“Great St. Clair” is too ordinary to be on this EP. It sounds like the band’s token shot at joining Linkin Park at the tops of the charts. It’s a transparent effort that doesn’t live up to the rest of the more challenging material on Everything Will Fall on One Night. Fortunately the band doesn’t waste much time getting back on track with “Her Name Is Montreal”, a noisy, confused mess (and I mean that as a compliment) that’s just barely held together by gum and nails.
Closer “Art Beaudrie” continues the noisy rock. It’s a menacing song, angular, deliberately paced, full of venom. It’s as good an example as any of what Full White Drag does best: unleash a dissonant sonic assault that isn’t dependent on the vocals for melody or meaning. I’m sure Full White Drag is making some tough decisions as it prepares its first full-length album. Hopefully it’ll play to its strengths and not pander to those who will insist the band conform to a norm that’s selling millions of records by using a well-tested formula. Full White Drag has the licks to take the world by storm on its own terms. I hope no one talks them out of it.