People don’t talk about Trash Talk’s music. We talk about Trash Talk as an avenging force, or as a torch-bearing institution dedicated to reminding us of the days when you could get your fucking head kicked in at a punk rock show. The first time I saw Trash Talk live, I’m not sure I even processed the music — or, perhaps more accurately, I’m not sure I heard the music as anything more than once piece of a transfixingly brutal spectacle. Trash Talk shows are the stuff of instant legend, erratic and unstable and violent before the band so much as plays a note, the music seeming to emanate naturally from frontman Lee Spielman’s prowling-panther charisma and the band’s all-over-the-place crazy-as-fuck energy. When we talk about Trash Talk, the live show is the first thing anyone talks about, and the music — fireballs of grimy old-school basement-hardcore intensity — seems to exist almost simply as a soundtrack for mayhem. Trash Talk’s early records are remarkable in their primal radiating-in-all-directions ferocity and in their jarring brevity. (2012’s 119, their last album, was by far their longest at not quite 22 minutes, at least until today.) Those records seemed to function, more or less, as souvenirs or previews of the live show, as audio mementos that brought back the feeling of a sweaty elbow mushing up against your temple. And so the band’s new album No Peace stands out because its songs function as songs and because it’s the first Trash Talk record that creates its own context, independent of the band’s live show.
The first sounds we hear on No Peace are a quantized drum-roll, a heaving distorto-guitar note, a faraway flute-whistle. Those are elements on “Amnesiatic,” the instrumental intro track, which the band recorded with veteran rap producer the Alchemist. “Amnesiatic” is really just a clipped little groove, a minute-long piece of interstitial music, a plate-setting. But it’s also a fascinating piece of music. I don’t know how many other bands are capable of the tone we hear on that guitar — dark, sludgy, bursting with implied violence. But I do know that no other bands would think to use that guitar tone as a plaything for a stoned rap visionary. And that guitar sounds great in this context, the track’s staggering breakbeat and its tingling psychedelic sound effects adding up to a deeply evocative little sludge-droplet. The album proper ends with another minute-long Alchemist-produced track, “Reprieve,” that’s even better: A Godzilla-stomp guitar riff pressed into service of tumbling programmed drums and smoked-out drift. No Peace is a hardcore record through and through, and those two tracks are anomalies. But they’re telling anomalies, anomalies that reveals new sides to what this band can do, what worlds it can span.
Those two Alchemist-produced tracks are not without precedent, not entirely. Trash Talk are, at least on some level, rap guys. They’ve toured with rappers. They’re signed to Odd Future Records. Tyler, The Creator and Hodgy Beats rapped on one 119 song. Ever since they started to break out of the hardcore scene, they’ve existed at some sort of rap/punk skateboard-culture locus that reveres Mobb Deep just as much as the Cro-Mags. But even when they’ve had actual rappers on a song, they’ve never let that influence creep into their music the way they do on No Peace. Other than the Alchemist-produced tracks, rap only appears in subtle shades on No Peace. The drums are slower, recorded with more neck-snap precision. The basslines roll almost as much as they growl. There are grooves here, not just blurry blurts. The band recorded the album in New York, far from their Sacramento origins and their L.A. home base, and the change in scenery has the rare-for-New York effect of opening up their music, finding a bit more space in it, giving just a modicum of room to breathe. It’s half an hour long — basically a triple-gatefold Yes album by this band’s spartan standards. It has choruses and verses. There’s one bonus track “Stakin Skins,” where two outside vocalists, King Krule and Ratking rapper Wiki, try (without much success) to deliver lyrics on a Trash Talk song without bellowing like demons. It’s an album of chances taken and fusions attempted, and it’s easily and immediately the most impressive and approachable thing Trash Talk have ever done.
But No Peace is not a compromise move. It’s grimy and jarring, and listening to it feels like being swatted with 12 different wiffle ball bats at once. If anything, the new interest in space and dynamics makes the album more cathartic, its thunder louder. You won’t confuse this for the work of another band; the meat of the album is still in the fiery roils of effects-pedal burn and throat-shredding roar that rarely last longer than two minutes. But there’s a new sense of tension-and-release at work, and that’s a powerful thing when it’s executed as forcefully and mercilessly as it is here. Trash Talk were always a dangerous band. Now, they’ve become a dangerous band whose songs you can sometimes remember when you’re not listening to them. This makes them a more dangerous band.
Other albums of note out this week:
• Robyn and Röyksopp huge-sounding collaborative mini-album Do It Again.
• Sharon Van Etten’s sweeping, beautifully sung Are We There.
• Owen Pallett’s ambitious orchestral pop record In Conflict.
• Hercules And Love Affair’s emotive, hard-thumping old-school house revival The Feast Of The Broken Heart.
• Ben Frost’s pounding noise opus A U R O R A.
• Hundred Waters’ glimmering, impressionist The Moon Rang Like A Bell.
• Dum Dum Girls/Crocodiles side project Haunted Hearts’ debut Initiation.
• Meyhem Lauren & Buckwild’s boom-bap collaboration Silk Pyramids.
• Eyehategod’s brutal, dirt-blasted self-titled comeback album.
• Black Anvil’s old-school thrash-metal crossover record Hail Death.
• Rush Midnight’s smooth, rippling debut Fix Me Up.
• Enabler’s grand scuzz-punk attack La Fin Absolute Du Monde.
• Ifing’s epic, mythic black metal roil Against The Weald.
• Popstrangers’ textured indie popper Fortuna.
• My Morning Jacket side project Spanish Gold’s debut South Of Nowhere.
• Three Man Cannon’s fuzzed-out ’90s-indie exercise Pretty Many People.
• Serpentine Path’s ugly, hulking doom debut Emanations.
• Former Black Swans frontman Jerry David DeCicca’s solo debut Understanding Land.
• Museum Mouth’s missed-connections concept record Alex I Am Nothing.
• Atmospheric trap producer Napolian’s solo debut Incursio.
• Emptiness’s ethereal black metaller Nothing But The Whole.
• LOST BOY ?’s Wasted EP.