UNBOUND AND SCREAMING Harbor.
Between the new musical ventures at Mathew's (it will always be Pops to me), whatever's going on with Dirigimus, and the new Studio 250, there's been a bit of a heavy-music resurgence lately, much of it raw and unpolished. Which is as it's intended and generally the way I like it now; the pendulum had pushed so far toward giant studio guitars and vocals that envelope your head that much of "metal" or "thrash" was starting to sound formulaic.
Take this debut Harbor record. At eight songs and 18 minutes, it's right in your face, with songs that fire in so quickly it's like they just hit "record" mid-song and screamed, with shouted vocals from Bob Delaney that often feel like repeated body blows.
At times, they're an updated version of the mean-punk put forth by the likes of the Dead Milkmen (who are downright quaint nowadays). "New Low" is accusatory enough to make you feel defensive; it's hooky enough to turn you sympathetic. There are machine-gun guitars that fire through a rain of splash cymbal, peals of feedback that give Delaney time to pace the stage like a caged animal.
They can do a lot in three minutes.
Hell, they can do a lot in a minute. The closing "Bete Noir" has a teasing bass line and backing vocals from Paul Kemmett that lend a schizophrenic air. I doubt it's the Bryan Ferry album they're referencing when they close by noting, "her smile projects through crooked skin."
It can be hard to make out the lyrics in general, what with the screaming and frayed vocal cords, but the opening to "Glass Half Empty," with guest vox from Pat Rhodes (The Young Lungs) is clear as a hand grenades: "Do you ever feel like everything you do in life/Is never/Good enough?/Like no matter how hard you try/You just keep fucking up?/This is how I feel every hour of every single fucking day."
That kind of chest-ripped-open sentiment is at the heart of what makes this album work, and Too Late the Hero guitarist Kevin Billingslea did good work to capture it as engineer and producer at his Lion's Maine studio in Waterboro. It's not just that it's believable. It's that you can't imagine any of it is a put-on. This is vein-tapping stuff, and it's hard not to be attracted by music that primal.
HARBOR | Released by Harbor | with Too Late the Hero + Cold Words + Monarch + Firstborn | at Geno's, in Portland | Nov 23 | facebook.com/harbor207