Like Shawn Michaels swaggering to the ring with a wink and a smile, Odonis Odonis’ latest full length Hard Boiled Soft Boiled is a blitzkrieg of highly-charged arrogance; a constant tug-of-war between the industrial stomping of machines and the haze of fuzzy melody that constantly dares you to give a fuck. Much of this is down to the irreverence of Dean Tzeno, a man who pitches his delivery somewhere between nonchalant chanting and remorseful singing. Nods to the usual cannon of post-punk giants Joy Division, My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive happen semi-regularly, but they’re just fleeting memories soon snuffed and overshadowed by the loud, bombastic enthusiasm of youth. This is essentially what the ‘80s/’90s would sound like if infected with the millennium bug. I’m also sure opener ‘Tension’ samples the Skype sign in sound.
You’d therefore assume that Hard Boiled Soft Boiled is way too easy of a title for me to take and wrap neatly inside an egg-based metaphor, then? Cool. Note instead the rugged abrasion of the booming drums in ‘Are We Friends?’, a mainline of energy supplemented by the cocksure saunter of the fizzing bass line and Tzeno’s warped perspective – ‘You might give me oral, it might seem amoral, but are we friends?’ he asks, probably unconcerned with the answer either way. Following is the even more frenetic and ironically titled ‘Order in the Court’, which sees the trio at their most spasmodic as they crash together tightly-strung slabs of noise as Tzeno dives into an indecipherable crisis. These sustained fits of tense musical corrosion are the backbone of Odonis Odonis’ unpredictable sound – ‘Breathing Hard’ and ‘New Obsession’ both explode in the same dizzying fashion — but they’re also the reason the bits when the band don’t lose their shit are so memorable.
Indeed, the last moments of ‘Angus Mountain’ drift in peaceful harmony as if starfish-gazing underwater, and the relative calm of ‘Highnote’ and ‘Office Sluts’ focus more on hypnotic tuneful reflection than they do on blasting you from wall to wall with powerful riffs and gleeful disdain. ‘Transmission from the Moon’ is exactly that; a meandering haunt of electronic sounds trying to make sense of something unknown, a rare moment where the band just shut their mouths and listen. By now the band wind down and space out further; finale ‘Alexa Wait’ is twice the length of the other tracks, a significant fact when you consider the brevity that precedes it. It’s built on the repetition of a beautiful acoustic guitar loop, with ambient sweeps shivering atop in swaying unison. Tzeno seems so far removed from his initial barbed position now, and instead of talking about blowjobs he ponders on mortality and futility: “Heaven must be cold / Heaven, a place I never go / where honest arts still pay”. It’s end of the night music, the soundtrack to exhaustion.
This linear narrative from wild to drawn-out actually reminds me of Talking Heads’ Remain in Light, but also the debut LP from fellow Toronto act DOOMSQUAD – two records that didn’t so much let their guard down as they progressed, but two records that were prepared to let you in. Hard Boiled Soft Boiled is really a carefully constructed paradox; two sides of the same coin spinning into a blur of agreement. The familiar ingredients of dreamy post-punk and raucous noise-rock are broken down into granular detail then injected with brave exuberance, and what results is an engaging, experimental record that most importantly doesn’t lose its soul in the process.
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