If you're reading this, there is a large chance that you've heard the music of The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster. I am going to pretend you haven't listened to them, and will focus on the independent offspring of that band, Piano Wire.
Piano Wire are a fascinating musical phenomenon. Their sound is seemingly new-punk at first glance; if this were classical music, we would call their vocal technique Sprechstimme (German for speak-singing). This technique fuses singing and speaking to create a less-pitched, more expressive lyricism. Piano Wire's style blurs the lines between lyrics and text. However, they are clearly honed lyrics and pitches/speaking; each lyric has depth and a sense of fit within its musical surroundings.
Piano Wire's bridge between somewhat good technique and apathy is a hallmark figure of their sound. "Dream Underground" uses nicely refined guitar tones but contrast them with a grunge and sense of noise that would make Kurt Cobain proud. Their sound is more noisy than Stone Temple Pilots, but not as dark as Alice in Chains.
Dream Underground is very intriguing; there are very punchy exclamations from the drums which create a heavy rhythmical insistence that engages the listener from the beginning of each song to the end. The addition of muddy guitar long tones and crunchy rhythm guitar punches, in addition to a hard-plucked bass guitar, make the tunes leading off the album, "Get a Life" and "Cherry Coma", infectiously catchy and enlivening. I could imagine music venues packed to the brink with dancing concertgoers, moving strangely in reckless abandon.
The rest of the tracks still hold perpetuous energy, varying in overall sonority very little. But, their music does not bore one as the album progresses. This is due to their insistence in juxtaposing through-composed structures with recurring elements, and adding into the mix non-rhyming lyrics. The result is unpredictable, bombarding, and memorable art music.
It is notable that this music is more artful than most music out there today. The days of a bridge (or "middle eight") in popular music may be numbered, but Piano Wire have found a way to rescue the song form without being repetitive. It seems that Piano Wire flies in the face of the "simplify to become heard" trend, and for this I admire them. I doubt their music will make much headway in the mainstream but their decision to take song form and rethink its structure is respected by this writer particularly.
The artful nature of their music extends to their more placated tracks, still rhythmic and polygonal. For example, "Weird Heroes" features slide guitar, acoustic guitar, a subdued drums coasting on the ride and crash cymbals, and a certain spaciousness. Yet, the doubled, somewhat-spoken vocals perpetuate, whether forceful or delicate. The result is a poignant image of longing, sorrow, and dejection.
I have not referenced as many individual tracks in this review, this is because I truly want you to understand the sound world and environment of Piano Wire in this release. Each track is an examination of the polyhedron that is Piano Wire's sound, with each revealed side a colourful array of a new takes on song, art, and sonority.
This album is, admittedly, not breath-taking. It is, however, real and purposeful. It reminds us that while the music industry ages, there is still good rock'n'roll to be made, even if it is for a niche audience. Dream Underground is good work; if you are into punk, grunge, alternative, psychedelic, or more complicated rock/pop, this album is well worth investigating.
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