Swirling guitar riffs buttress intense vocals with lyrics so repetitive they function as mantras. And a 40-minute interview with an ex-porn star. Try Me is an acquired taste, to say the least.
Self Defense Family has been around in some form for over a decade, although Try Me is their first full-length album under that particular band name. Previously they were known as End of a Year and have spent the better part of the last five years transitioning from one band name to the other. In true punk fashion, they’ve put out a wealth of albums, EPs, 7” singles and split releases over the years. Try Me is a weird album, with its 80-minute running time split almost evenly between the band’s hard-rocking anthems and “Angelique One” and “Angelique Two”. The latter tracks are a two-part interview where ex-porn star Jeanna Fine rambles on about her very interesting life growing up in New York City and eventually hanging out with a whole pile of mid-level ‘70s and '80s rock stars before drifting into the world of adult films. It’s a fascinating interview, but not the sort of thing you’d listen to every time you put the album on.
As for the music, lead vocalist Patrick Kindlon’s lyrics are often darkly funny or satirically angry. This is a tough trick to pull off considering that often his lyrics are so simplistic and repetitive that they essentially become mantras. Fortunately, Kindlon’s shout-spoken delivery is so passionate and intense and his backing band so capable that even the most repetitive songs on the album remain compelling. Self Defense Family sound like they’ve gotten bored with the traditional song structures so often employed in punk rock and are trying something different. In that manner, they are truly a post-punk band. Tracks like “Nail House Music” and “Apport Birds” find strongly melodic (albeit dark) guitar riffs to support Kindlon’s mantras. Meanwhile, the catchiest, most traditional song on the record is “Mistress Appears at a Funeral”, sung prettily by guest vocalist Caroline Corrigan. On the other end of the spectrum is the 10-minute de facto album closer “Dingo Fence”, which opens with an argument between Kindlon and guitarist Andrew Duggan about whether Kindlon is going to use the words “cunts”, “cocks” or “cops” in his mantra. He then proceeds to use all three throughout the actual song, which spirals around and around until it becomes almost hypnotic. Try Me is an album that does things completely on its own rather difficult terms and succeeds on those terms.