The Plugged To Death Facts That We Know So Far: Taking Pictures, Chicago rock trio of present, are mainly made up of old Pittsbugh-faves Hurl. These members are currently Mat Daly on guitar and vocals, Noah Leger on drums and vocals, and Matt Jencik on bass and vocals. Their debut album Friends Are Ghosts is either the greatest thing to come along the indie circuit in some time are just merely too derivative of Fugazi, Slint, Don Caballero, and Hurl itself, depending on whose write-up you read.
Having never heard Hurl myself, I cannot comment on any similarities. However, having reviewed enough math-rock styled albums, of which Friends Are Ghosts can certainly be labeled, I can safely say that Taking Pictures bored the pants right off me. Like so many other math-rock bands getting hype these days, this band has one simple formula that it plays to death over the course of its album. That is, the old bass and drums led “melody” mixed with a little fang-fang guitar work and strained/shouted vocals that build to some semblance of a cork popping atmosphere which is then followed by the suddenly pop-inflected passing of flatulence “chorus” that tumbles down in relief only to repeat the process anew. Every fucking song here is like that, and frankly I’m finally tired of hearing it from these groups.
It really does all sound the same by now. Too many of these math rock teethers have pissed in the same pot and now they get to have soundalike albums, much like the pop punkers. There have been some exceptions to this, such as The Record Time (now sadly disbanded) who actually pushed the boundaries of the genre, but groups like Taking Pictures are far too numerous anymore and don’t necessarily warrant all the attention. You’ve heard on song here, you’ve heard ’em all. Fans will certainly cry foul at that remark, but they’re allowed to be wrong this time around.
It is hard to get into an album whose blueprint is unrolled on track one, “Hibernation for a Hyper-Nation” that then repeats ad nauseam through eight more songs without any let up. And once again, as if to prove they’re too cool for school, Taking Pictures are another band that uses ridiculous titles to push the “interesting” envelope. Sorry, but as soon as I see tracks with labels like “Faces, Smearing”, “We Are Only . . .”, and “You Serve, You’re So”, I know I’m going to soon be saddled with pretentious wanking that will most likely not be worth my time. So it is with Friends Are Ghosts.
The vocals are also really hard to ingest. Each of the members sings here and suffice it to say that they’re really not that good either together or alone. But I suppose it all makes “sense” within the context of the equally jagged and mind numbing music. Thanks, but no thanks. After trying my best to sit through the likes of “Faces, Smearing” and “Words Sound Like Drums” and not turning it off after (or before) the first minute was up, I figured this disc and I were a completely futile pairing. For those who can seriously enjoy this type of music anymore, more power to you. I can no longer stand it and hope that this whole genre will dry up soon. When it gets to the point where the groups are interchangeable and not at all even remotely entertaining, then what’s the point? Perhaps eventually another math rock group will come along that I do find enjoyable, but it’s less than likely. I have to completely pass on Taking Pictures and Friends Are Ghosts and I can only recommend that you do nothing but the same.