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Moving Units: Damage With Care

Moving Units has always crafted eminently danceable, melodically infectious dance-punk. With Damage With Care, nothing changes.


Moving Units

Damage With Care

Label: Metropolis
US Release Date: 2016-04-08
UK Release Date: 2016-04-08
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It's a common tendency to conceptualize Joy Division's sound as the purest embodiment of post-punk melancholy available. Without argument, the band's brooding composite of nihilistic poetry, paranoia-driven bass, and angular, clawing-out-of-the-unconscious guitar set the template for all of the art-rock depressives that followed. Vocalist Ian Curtis' highly publicized suicide in 1980 only served to further crystallize this image, transforming the group into mythological arbiters of the despair suppurating beneath punk's fast, restless energy. To many, they became permanent shadow-dwellers with amps turned past ten, Dickinsonian death-watchers, and/or boys playing with black fire in shallow lamplight.

But listen to "Disorder", the inaugural song from '79's seminal Unknown Pleasures, and a different Joy Division presents itself: the Joy Division that Moving Units would study to forge its own hyper-kinetic dancepunk sound. The melancholy of the band's most rawly emotive tracks is still here, but there's a desperation as well and, with that desperation, an intensity so propulsive, insistent, and all-consuming that it borders on hope.

It begins and Stephen Morris' drumbeat jumps into view with a vicious urgency, like it needs to move just to stay sane, but it's Peter Hook's bassline—the song's most fiercely vibrant component,which would become the primary antecedent of Moving Units' sound—that seems to push Curtis to the brink of some warped-soul revelation. "It's getting faster, moving faster now, it's getting out of hand", Curtis sings, and it's precisely this getting-out-of-hand impulse, barreling toward some mortal terminus or psychosexual delirium, that Moving Units tries to isolate in its jittery post-punk revivalism.

Damage With Care is the L.A. outfit's follow-up to 2013's Neurotic Exotic, but it feels more like a logical continuation of the band's debut, 2004's Dangerous Dreams, than a chronological step forward. Both "Wishful Thinking" and "American Infantile" try to recapture the sprawling electric fizzle of the band's standout hit, "Between Us & Them", while the penultimate "Teacher" opts for an effusive power-pop melody that makes the crackling "Going For Adds" look downcast by comparison. To be sure, these are run-of-the-mill dancepunk adrenaline injections, but they're expertly crafted, and Blake Miller and company know exactly the right vein to hit.

Cannoned along by an anthemic guitar chug and earworm chorus, "Hyatt Girls" strives to be Damage with Care's highpoint. Sonically, you can almost hear this striving; the guitar yearns and expands and reaches for the production's vertical limits in an all-out plea for dancefloor-siren status (an ambition that it achieves through sheer funk-rock glee and Miller's admirably boyish whine/croon). "Oh heartbreak, baby / My favorite toy", he begins, a Peter Hook-like bass bounce undulating behind him, and in just six words he summarizes both Damage With Care's appeal and central flaw: namely, that heartbreak becomes a malleable plaything throughout the record, a source of thematic invention that entices but rarely packs authentic emotion.

"Going Out", which gives "Hyatt Girls" a run for its money, twitches with an infectious melody and a brash bass-guitar interchange that wouldn't feel out of place on a greatest hits compilation from The Bravery. Like much of the record's remaining bits, it doesn't try to raise any abstruse philosophical questions, but rather focuses on its breakneck tempo and pounding, four-on-the-floor dance rhythm. It's energetic, angsty, and fast, like a back-catalog punk track. It's so fast, in fact, that it nearly gets out of hand.

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