“I could never forget her if I tried,” the vague yet evocative line stated over and over in the first track, sets the tone for New Zealand trio Die!Die!Die’s second full length album: angry sincerity with a side of indignation. Though some might find this attitude a bit bratty, the band commits to it so fully that I find myself believing in frontman Andrew Wilson’s utter rightness when he spits out accusations like “who cast the first stone/not me, dear” and “I just want what I was promised.” No emo-sogyny here: she-who-shall-not-be-named has wronged him horribly, end of story!
It helps that the songs are much more well-crafted than those of your average garage punk band. Driving post-punk bass lines and minimalist, military style drumming form a solid backdrop for swirling guitar noise and unexpected melodic touches like the vocal harmony on Sideways Here We Come or the guitar harmonics on album closer Blue Skies. The tension between dissonant noise and danceable pop is palpable, and the band does an impressive job of negotiating the two. For every half-spoken, half-sung tirade reminiscent of Black Flag, there’s also a fuzzed-out weird section that sounds like mid-career Sonic Youth. In fact, Wilson’s rapid, trance-like poetics on Britomart Sunset sound so much like Kim Gordon’s that it’s actually kind of creepy. Similarly, anti-gentrification rant Hold Me walks the line between punk rock and performance poetry, like a 90’s-era emo guy channeling Patti Smith. Maybe it’s just the feminine lilt to his voice, but I’d venture to guess Wilson’s up on his iconic lady vocalists.
Which is not to say Die!Die!Die! sound just like their influences. Though there are discernible elements of many genres (the Gang of Four-esque into to Death to the Last Romantic, the extreme vocal similarities with Gordon), they mix it up enough to keep from being too derivative. Intelligent dynamics help this cause; People Talk, for example, cuts through a noisy rant with a guitar line that is twangy, then fuzzy, then pure static, until it crescendos and those relentless drums return. Moments like this could be hit harder and more often, but they go a long way towards keeping the listener too busy following what’s happening to pick apart each song’s various influences.
The fact that they can appeal both to angsty teenagers and pretentious critics also bodes well for this band’s success, especially considering most critics were once angsty teenagers. They sneak catharsis nicely into a legitimizing package of artistic chops, and, like the guy who tucks Maxim inside of his Wall Street Journal, most of us enjoy that, whether we’ll admit it or not.