Conceived by a Boston crew whose collective DNA is a twisted and fearsome double helix of extreme music lifers. The folks herein have served time in Doomriders, The Red Chord, Wormwood, and the criminally underrated Phantom Glue, whose 2013 album, A War of Light Cones, is a sludgy and depressing but ultimately perfect slab of noise. Though press is honorably humble and modestly reductive, these “men of a certain age” have reassembled into the quietly monstrous Labor Hex. The namesake’s assertion here, for me at least, is finding time to create purgative art betwixt the relentless assault of adulthood’s backbreaking workweek.
More pre-music talk clue-hunting leads me to the evocative cover art which juxtaposes fallen petals atop an open but as of yet unused switchblade. Herein lies the decades-built magic of Labor Hex. Though they’re wont to flash their substantial and scythe-sharp fangs, they’re just as likely to revel in melodies, albeit bent and warped ones. It was this dual nature that made 2018’s Lost In Calling such a compelling listen. The Stone Roses baiting “I Wanna Be Ignored” and five star standout “Valentine Coast” leveled the field like Rome Plows, their fiery take on noisenik punk rock blended the best parts of post-hardcore and AmRep sans dope, guns, and well, ya know.
Enter their upcoming EP, Nothing is Real, which will drop December 6th. Digital distribution is set to be handled by the superlative folks at (you know ‘em, you love ‘em) Deathwish Inc. and their co-sign isn't one to be taken lightly. Were you to randomly spin the waxen black circle at random, you’d more than likely stumble upon a highlight, but our purposes, the Song of the Day is “Hollywood High.”
Anchored by a rubbery, serpentine bass riff intro that feels as cribbed from early '80s USHC as it does from the Jesus Lizard, “Hollywood High” is best when channeling the brainy and barbaric yawp of Guy Piccioto. Vacillating wildly between breathy, spoken lines and embittered screams, the track immediately trembles with a paranoid mania.
At times slinky and off-kilter and at others propulsive and straight ahead, the overall tone is mournful and sour, again befitting a band whose senior lineage is a muscled fusion of metallic subgenres.
Their take on all things post shoehorns a litany of influences, which is ultimately a testament to their myriad talents. I hear everything from the John Reis school of the endlessly catchy and discordant to the head-nodding of Unwound’s bouncing lob. Their cacophonous catchall flare reminds me of the (only gonna type this name once) “...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead.” Dig deeply and you’re likely to find harmonic nods to the sludge of their other work.
The back end of “Hollywood High” presents as a chopped and angular beast, the pendulum swings violently after the lyrical gem “talk, talk, talk, my shit.” As is the case with noise-informed punk rock, the proceedings are mildly unsettling but sidestep the alienation of the colder end of the genre. Melody always towers above and beckons the listener to return. Fans of everything from Dischord’s rowdier second act to what Steve Albini does in his sparse spare time would happily tap the Labor Hex vein. More currently, they inhabit a space that splits the difference between Pissed Jeans, KEN Mode, and even Gouge Away. Get bewitched by the hex.
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