There’s something compelling about a band that manages to sound like the Shins hopped up on mathcore, with just a dash of early Modest Mouse. The absurdity of it—the anger of punkish lyrics sung by vaguely emo voices, indie-rock sensibilities with punk aspiration—makes Bring Back The Guns a lot more interesting than it would have been otherwise. There are less-than-stellar moments on Dry Futures, but there’s also a weird, utterly unreasonable energy here that makes it worth playing over and over. Like metalcore, they tend to change on a dime, running almost opposite to the bass line. But the rawness in the voice and the lyrics is far more indie rock than punk: this is the alienated rage of geeks and the obsessive compulsives, a frustrated, wry anger directed as much at themselves as the world.
The album opens weirdly with the unrelenting “No More Good Songs”, a minute and a half of yelling, with a chorus that seems to sum up their ethos, both seriously and sarcastically: “No more talking! No more good songs!” There’s quite a lot of talking on Dry Futures, and quite a few good songs, yet the talking is also singing, and the songs, if not intentionally bad, are at least antithetical.
And though the 11 tracks of Dry Futures don’t even break the 40-minute mark, they do manage to cover a lot of ground, from the near-ballad “Let’s Not” to the straight mathcore of the title track. Some of the best moments happen with when the yelling mellows into a moment of talking, like a bit of clarity tagged onto the end of a rant. Like in “The Art of Malnutrition”: “There is no city like my city, there is no war / there’s never been a war like this before / there is no face except my face / there is no blood—that is not my blood”. Or, when the lead singer gives up on a song to repeat a choice line over and over, like “I’ll work my Christian body for the ravens and the snakes, for the ravens and the snakes” repeated for a full minute on “The Season for Treason”.
Despite a strong beginning, the best moments come at the end of the album. “Radio Song ‘04” is the only track longer than five minutes, the final minute taken up almost entirely by screaming “I love the radio” over crashing drums and a barely-heard brass melody. And the angry closer “In Piles / On File”, also the first single, is a fantastically steady and kinetic song, with an instrumental opening that feels almost 60s California. When the vocals do cut in, quiet and squeaky, it’s like an afterthought, a shadow of the clean electric bass. It all feels like driving too fast down a bare beach in yellow-hazy sunset.
Yes, Bring Back The Guns has been hanging around Houston, TX for years under a bevy of other names, but Dry Futures feels much more like a beginning than a middle. It’s a promising beginning, and one only hopes the next will be a little longer.