Big Ups Lay Out Cacophony and Bliss on 'Two Parts Together'
Big Ups' Two Parts Together is a headstrong record that finds optimal comfort in post-punk and unpredictability.
Two Parts Together
Exploding in Sound
18 May 2018
Two Parts Together is an appropriate name for a record that demonstrates its strengths through contrast. Clean strings would mask a dark bass presence; distortion would block out the genuine hope in the lyrics, and chaotic instrumentation would coordinate with sedated vocals. Big Ups act as pioneers in post-punk, attempting more nuance in their volume. This New York-based band want audiences to listen deeply, going past the noise and reaching the more hopeful lifeblood of each song. The instrumentation is a tumultuous storm: the vocalist is on a path toward what made him happy.
Like on Before a Million Universes, the band channel the essence of Slint very liberally. That is more present in the vocalization; however, each member puts more than an excellent effort in making an ominous atmosphere. This success is doubled on Two Parts Together; if you removed one instrument from the equation, the effect would be lost. Each track hinges on every part coordinating to create a gloom that would define the Big Ups sound. The only substantial con is how short the album is, leaving you wanting more.
Big Ups are not the sort of band to let sleeping dogs lie. When you believe their song is over, another section takes over, leading listeners to question whether this new part is necessary. These cogs are unnecessary, although they do provide an impact in their unpredictability. "In the Shade" introduces this trend, with a first half having a fighting post-punk vocal presence, then abruptly having a more pugilist presence in the percussion and strings. The more Deftones-like "Trying to Love" also has this switch in tone, favoring a grey, sombre mood as opposed to a more rebellious one.
Two Parts Together also finds its strengths in its varying genre shifts, with some being subtle and some overt. "Tenmile" is not a filler as much as it is a post-rock respite from the cacophony already laid in the album. "Fear" has a more alternative rock sensation in its strings: they start out less distorted until the bass drops implosion after implosion of sound in the second verse. "Tell Them" straddles away from post-punk to initially go for a plainer punk in the mucky vocals. The song slowly builds up until it fully turns back into the post-punk that the group has mastered.
When not waxing poetic, the simplicity of the lyrics is what makes the album better than the sum of its parts. When you can get past the blockade of sound, "Trying to Love" uses the grotesque imagery of dirty fingernails and chipped teeth to go along the dark path the bass creates. The maelstrom of noise is advantageous, too, as shown on the teeth-gritting "Imaginary Dog Walker". There is an element of rallying rather than separation when Joe Galarraga sings: "There are those who walk / And those who run." All of this amounts to a riotous tremor of a fight in the last section. "We will walk the dogs!" Galarraga shouts, a heavy instrumentation following him like a torrent of rain.
"Fear" is where this simplicity and beauty truly rears its head: "I don't wanna recall the moments before sleeping," Galarraga states, feeling bombarded by a claustrophobic sense of dread. Throughout the song, less distorted guitars coordinate with troubled words, masking the hope that the vocalist still has. There are passages of brightness that finally reach its zenith with the words: "There is much to fear in the morning / Much to fear at night." This realization is more of a readying for the daily battles that come with living. The band realize that these unending trials are worth fighting for.
Big Ups have created another substantial record in their discography. The two parts the album's title are referring to could be lightness and darkness; hope and fear; loudness and quiet. Nevertheless, there are more than two parts that make Two Parts Together impactful.