1. Fly Trap
2. White Pickett
3. Creepy Kicks
4. Should've Worn Black
5. Shallow Grave
7. I'm Out
8. I Am the Corpse
2012 Translation Loss Records
Three cheers for toiling away in the underground. The Fight Amp unit is back with another gritty full-length, though with excellent recent splits bridging the gap between Manners and Praise and the present (the Lose / Lose / Lose triple bruiser was one of 2011's best), it's hard to say that they even left. One thing's for sure – as seasoned and accomplished as these three dudes have become over the last few years, there isn't much in the way of riches or mass recognition at the end of this noisy rainbow. Don't be fooled by a world where Pitchfork and NPR praise the esoteric beauty of all things sub-genre'd in metal. Something tells me that those folks aren't showing up to hear Fight Amp lock into some of the best modern noise rock grooves this side of Unsane in grimy bars once smoky, now offering only wafts of stale beer and even staler urine.
It's through that filter that Fight Amp lives and that their heavy tunes are meant to be experienced. Birth Control, at its fundamental core, isn't a far cry from the band's output to date. The drums pummel, the power-line bass marvelously anchors each track, and the versatile guitar work weaves in and out of hard riffing and upper fretboard melody (check out "Shallow Grave" for the case closing evidence). Yet it's in Birth Control's broader songwriting arc that this collection of eight tracks stands alone from past Fight Amp releases. With most tracks sitting around the five-minute mark, and a pair of standouts that ring in at seven-plus, there are hints of maturity and a soulful backbone behind a lot of the more mid-paced hooks and progressions. Manners and Praise already packed in a healthy portion of hard-hitting, breakneck sprints, so hearing the shift to something a touch more spacious, all while retaining their abrasive, angular elements, is a welcomed spin on a familiar tune.
"Fly Trap" discloses this new trajectory at t equals two minutes when bass and drums drop out and a single string guitar line becomes the driving force. For a full minute, the trio works through an elaborate build of drum fills, bass punches, and subtle guitar touches before launching straight ahead at what now feels like twice the power. It's a wielding of dynamics that the band hadn't fully reigned in on previous records and simply put, it's fucking great.
"Should've Worn Black" and "I Am the Corpse" are the aforementioned expansive standouts that continue to push this new agenda. The former offers up the stellar chanted vocals that allowed the "Bad Listener" bookends of Manner and Praise to have such staying power. Chances are, the slightly apathetic, chanting rounds in "Should've Worn Black" of "Even empty / This town disgusts me" will be rightfully engrained into the part of your brain set aside for catchy vocal parts. "I Am the Corpse" will earn a spot in there as well, but its success comes in that it is truly a comprehensive summary of the key elements of the Fight Amp sound. It's got a handful of top notch lockstep grooves running at a strong pace, layers of guitar melody atop coarse bass lines, and instantly memorable singing, all in a sweeping, mildly hypnotic song structure.
What these guys have managed to pull off is a successful evolution without fundamentally altering their tools. Aside from a few ambient-leaning outros, Birth Control is a testament to the wide range of what can truly be accomplished within the constraints of proper three-piece.
Bottom Line: Following the move to slim down to a trio after 2008's Hungry for Nothing, the dudes in Fight Amp have been successful at pushing the boundaries of a relatively simple formula, all while remembering to keep the endorphin-producing grooves front and center. Birth Control is the obvious proof. I can't wait to hear these new jams in whatever piss-stained, rotgut-offering dive is next. After all, that's where we all belong.