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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
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Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
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Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Sixth in Sixes
Polyvinyl Records

Rating: 5.5/10 ?

September 28, 2005
I'm not really all that sure when - or even if - there ever was a purpose within noise rock. I'll give the genre big ups for gusto, but after that I might be hard-pressed to come up with another positive critique. It seems as if the style is very much introverted and self-concerned, like an animal burrowing and storing food for the winter furiously trying to stay alive. Well boys, this might be a cold one.

The accompanying press kit for Sixth in Sixes highlights the fact that XBXRX has opened for acts Sonic Youth, Deerhoof, Mr. Quintron, Q and Not U and Unwound - not really the gold seal of approval that I was looking for. But wait… they have worked with some renowned producers such as Steve Albini, Ian MacKaye, Vern Rumsey and Tim Kerr, and they produced this album with Weasel Walter. Although now that I think about it, dropping a couple names never really did make music sound any better.

In several ways XBXRX harkens back to a time when straight-edged angst was a wonderfully dissonant and pure thing. The band does show a whisper of similarity towards MacKaye and his early music days with Minor Threat. Like-minded followers have endorsed the ideas that MacKaye championed: straight-edge 'X's and throat-searing screams. Others have taken the aesthetic of punk rock guttural yelling and adapted it to more cleanly recorded and heavier sounding present-day hardcore. I think XBXRX made an attempt to meld both old- and new-school punk rock elements into one; perhaps the Xs are a tongue-in-cheek thing, but certainly the yelling and dissonance a nod to hardcore and noise rock.

Sixth in Sixes ravages hard from the beginning; 18 tracks make up only about 26 minutes of music and as this quick-burning combination often alludes, the album is without much pause or filler. Once "Deaf Ears, Silent Voice" begins, only two-second buffer spaces between songs offer the listener any time in which to catch their breath. The singer has a similar timbre to the shrieking style that you can hear in the 5RC band, Mae Shi, but XBXRX's lead vocalist doesn't ever offer any harmonies or melodic singing. Anyone who is into depth or comprehension of lyrics might want to sit this one out. Very little of what is yelled can be discerned, and it doesn't take long before the open-throated style begins to wear.

Another con is that the album fails to assert a sense of individuality and freshness that a group like the Mae Shi does. The music is built around the sounds of distorted guitar, fuzzy bass and thin and simple drums. The overall style hosts disrupted punk rhythms and frantic cymbal-crazy punctuations that coordinate with a version of garage rock guitar, coming together as equal parts riffage and heavy, straight chords. At a time when there are new rock releases every day, each act that doesn't differentiate themselves at least somewhat notably naturally becomes more trite and boring - I even swore that "Deaf Ears, Silent Voice" was an interpolation of an Oblivion song.

In all, it comes down to one's ability to tolerate rough sound. For those that enjoy the dissonant and spazzy, Sixth in Sixes is a decent record - without looking at it under these relative terms though, the album misses the mark.

Reviewed by Josh Zanger
Joshua Ian Zanger, a native of rural Chicago, rocks many a world with his writing, style, and generally sweet aroma.

See other reviews by Josh Zanger



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