Aqui: First Trip Out

First Trip Out
Ace Fu

AQUI is one of the most amazing rock bands I ever saw . . . see ’em before their [sic] famous!
— Tom Ritchford

I cannot take advice from a critic who doesn’t know the difference between they’re and their. No matter, because in the case of Brooklyn, NY’s Aqui, I made up my own mind without any persuasion. Yes, it’s time once again for yours truly to go less gaga over something a few others seem to be drooling over for the most part. Sometimes I don’t know if this boils down to hipster criticism or just bad taste, but Aqui didn’t move me in any fashion other than to unceremoniously dump their CD into the trash can after I was done killing off a few brain cells listening to it.

Aqui is another band whose PR folks have decided to stick that whole “a band that defies categorization” bullshit upon. Simply, Aqui is bad metallic riffs and rhythm squeezed through a boring acid trip. But Aqui doesn’t want to get stuck with that “metal” tag (“Metal simple will not do”, says the press sheet.), trying instead to go for some more futuristic post-punk/freakout/metal label. In the end it doesn’t matter. The one-sheet continues on to discuss the group’s look while dropping in comparisons to Blade Runner and Mad Max. Hoo-rah.

“And where the hell are those techno sounds coming from when there is not a synth or sampler in sight”, asks the sheet. I don’t know. I take it they’re bragging about Aqui’s menacing way of throwing trashy retro items into their trashy “modern” style. But really, the synth-sounding bass and bleeps that litter “Please Send Love” are about as annoying as it gets. The band locks into this kind of idiotic robot groove, while lead singer Stephonik wails away, sounding like a cross between Chrissie Hynde and Robert Smith. That is, the worst aspects of both.

It’s Stephonik who really makes Aqui not work for my ears. Her punkish delivery on “Roll” makes one yearn for the real Iggy Pop and not this clone. On “Action!”, she sounds like she’s about to go into an epileptic fit. And on “Kick! Score!” the vocal histrionics get about as good as listening to Diz McNally on the old Nickelodeon show Out of Control. To say the least, Stephonik and her band mates are perfectly matched, as the entire group seems like it’s about to burn out on speed.

And what about those silly commanding song titles, anyway? You have the aforementioned “Action!” and “Kick! Score!”, along with “Roll” and “Open! Go! Begin!” It’s as if the de-evolution of Devo infiltrated Aqui and dropped the intelligence quotient way down into the gutter. But then again, I’m not sure anyone would actually listen to this group for the lyrics (sample from “There as It Bleeds”: “We don’t know how long we were lost but we made it out! / Yes, we were able to undo! / We sliced through and remembered that we carried the bell that lured the one they sought!”). It’s all a strange blend of goofy early Rush imagery mixed with a bit of stale New Wave leftovers from the ’80s.

Then again, I’m not sure what group of people would really get into Aqui. Would it be the head-banging metalheads? Probably not; this stuff really isn’t that intense or emotional at its core. How about those post punk kiddies, then? Maybe, for a short time, though I can’t see the demographic for this nonsense eking past someone of 22 years old. So I’m just going to call it and say Aqui probably won’t break into anything truly huge (of course, I called it wrong on the equally dull Maroon 5). So while the others are saying things like “See them now before the bandwagon comes along,” I’m just going to say “Brooklyn has plenty of groovy bands. Aqui isn’t one of them.”

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