Literally half of these tracks resemble traditional hummable songs, though they fitfully switch modes and are sequenced to bleed into the avant-something bits of subdued noise-punk,
I’ve never been an air drummer or air guitar player but if there was one record born for hands to tap out at shoulder level and fingers to form invisible chords to, The Ladies have provided the mother load.
A drummer’s drummer, a guitarist’s guitarist- why shouldn’t two guys that are already in too many bands add one more to their resume? So many artists try to take on side projects believing they have talent to spare but how many really had talent in the first place no less extra to spare. Zach Hill and Rob Crow however are gifted to the point of absurd and I fear their band touring will cause riots in the venue because people will want to stand as close to as possible to the stage in hopes of soaking in a tenth of their playing skill. I can’t imagine how these songs look like live and my ears still don’t fully comprehend these songs as being possible to write, play, and or maintain for a whole song no less an entire set. I suspect they each own an extra set of arms to make all that glorious racket.
They Mean Us showcases what I think both musicians do best and their unique combination of playing styles (the label one sheet calls it “magnetic chemistry) form a head banging beauty I am just barely beginning to wrap my head around. Lullaby vocals over advanced algebra rhythms ((cosθ + i.sinθ)k+1), a hook will fall out of the sky, erupt into chaos and work its way into something epic which isn’t easy to do when your songs often fall under the two or three minute mark. (Is something 17 seconds in length even a song or is it a stacatto hiccough ?) This isn’t predictable pop music that relies on a simple and organized grid system, this is a study in filling in as much space as possible with guitar or drums while absolutely contagious slivers of vocal melodies stretch out and connect the scattered constellations of noise.
I have written about my love for Heavy Vegetable (Pre Pinback/Thingy) in past posts and while I still love HV more than anything Crow has done since, The Ladies are the next best thing. Lyrically speaking the subtle sense of humor Rob sneaks into every record is not lost here. (Listen to "Non-threatening" for a prime example)
Hill’s drumming as overbearing as anything that verbose should be remains surprising tasteful and I am certain jazz drummers like Buddy Rich would be impressed.
The PFM review has a lot to say but it describes The Ladies rather than letting anyone know beyond the number rating if it is worth your time or not. Their closing statement “the Ladies' rampant precision will suffice” doesn’t exactly scream a 7.2 rating. Beyond the “rampant precision” perfect pop melodies bloom where one would suspect it impossible and They Mean Us earns at least an 8.0 for it’s fantastic freak of nature. I’m better than pleasantly surprised, I already want more than just a little over 30 minutes of music.
See you in the front row.