From their inception, Kingston, Pennsylvania’s Title Fight has always been about change. Constantly prodding at the boundaries of hardcore and punk, their 2011 debut Shed and follow-up Floral Green was not only constructed for thrashing mosh pits, but for those who wanted to contemplate deeper themes as well. On the title track of the band’s first album, bassist Ned Russin shouted, “Shed your skin / Change your face,” and now the quartet seems to be taking this simple mantra to heart. With a noticeably less aggressive, in-your-face stance, their latest effort, Hyperview, could be mistaken for the work of a different band entirely. But make no mistake; this is still the same Title Fight, just the logical next step in their career.
Perhaps the most notable alteration this go-around for the band is the increased presence of guitarist Jamie Rhoden. Where bassist and co-vocalist/screamer Ned Russin was typically the focal point on previous outings, Rhoden handles the majority of singing duties on Hyperview. When a band makes the leap from mainly scream-singing to more clear-cut melodies and harmonies, there’s bound to be some dedicated fans scratching their heads. However, that shouldn’t be the case here as Title Fight proves that even with this overhaul, they can still sound like themselves.
In spite of the band’s constant musical flux, they’ve had some overlying consistencies in their albums. Take their penchant for a dreamy guitar haze recalling ’90s shoegaze and grunge combined with visceral, blasé lyrics. Hushed vocals and swirling instrumentals on Hyperview opener “Murder Your Memory” could have found a home on a My Bloody Valentine record with little question. Along with woozy guitars, the lead single, “Chlorine”, rings with the grind and exigency (not to mention, accessibility) of a long-lost Nirvana B-side.
Where the halfway points of albums can tend to drag, Title Fight has reinforced the middle of Hyperview with some of the grittiest tracks on here. The careening “Mrahc” chugs along to pummeling drums all while staying grounded in the band’s shoegaze gloss. If you came looking for Russin’s good ol’ throat-shredding shout, then “Rose of Sharon” is the closest you’ll get to hearing it this time around. He’s buried beneath heavily layered guitars, but listen intently enough and you may actually be able to make out what he’s saying. Russin’s shouting through an entire record can be tiresome and one-note, yet without him Hyperview lacks the full-throttle urgency of the band’s past releases. Even when the group went full-shoegaze on earlier material (see: Floral Green standout “Head in the Ceiling Fan”), there was still an unstoppable strength behind it.
Even with this new sound experimentation, Title Fight occasionally repeats themselves and tracks like closer “New Vision” sound like a carbon copy of earlier cut “Trace Me Onto You”. Thankfully, these songs are at least fast-paced and fare better than the mid-tempo plodders (“Dizzy”).
It’s worth noting that Hyperview marks producer Will Yip’s sixth time working with Title Fight; he knows how to get the most out of these guys in the studio. And (aside from some electrifying, mosh pit-ready songs) Yip’s production might be the biggest takeaway from this record. When all of the cylinders are firing, he makes Title Fight sound immense. Hyperview finds them wandering in a more melodious direction, sometimes for better or worse. The album may not be completely game-changing, but it rings like a natural (occasionally unsteady) evolution.