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Deaf Wish
Pain Brendan Telford , September 17th, 2015 11:36

Sometimes playing a couple of gigs means exactly that. Now on their fourth album, Melbourne malcontents Deaf Wish are still finding disparate ways to air their anachronistic wares, as focused on delivering a schizophrenic blitzkrieg as they were when the four piece came together to play a couple shows some eight years ago.

Pain is their first full length output on Seattle label du jour Sub Pop, but it hasn't blunted their serrated edge. If anything, it has pushed the band to be more chaotic and roughshod, showcasing a fidgeting fecundity that first reared its head on their eponymous first record in 2007, but showing a harsher propensity for spewing banal bile. It kicks out at real and perceived failures, mirroring the scarred psyche of four people who embrace life's shortcomings with a death grip, as desperate as it is dangerous.

'The Whip' opens up the album with a menacing metronome, drums pounding and plodding, a machine made for moving forward with militarism but without respite, the threat interspersed and heightened by moments of weary contemplation. Jensen Tjhung's vocals are a laconic, wary drawl, and the twin guitars meet in a desiccated squall that is both destructive and propulsive. It's an awesome (in its truest, gargantuan sense) precursor for the mayhem to come. The album zigzags across the four band members' sonic frames of reference, glued together by the frenetic, wiry melding of their elements. 'Newness Again' is a thrashy, tetchy punk bawl, taking the feral fury of the gutter-trash 70s and licking it clean, Nick Pratt sounding voracious, feverish and pinched, all at once. 'They Know' sees Sarah Hardiman take the mic in a roiling comedown synonymous with Kim Gordon's knowing distance and dominance. 'Sunset's Fool' throws out another tangential break, a laconic yet off-kilter downturn, the paint-peeling destruction shelved for wearier, lackadaisical affectations.

Pratt bounces right back with the roaring 'Eyes Closed', a track that feels ripped out of the womb of gnarled blood-stained punk with no-wave as the midwife. The way Pratt's vocals cleave through the air, a sandpaper grind, over more angular, atonal foundations tears through any familiarity; as is the case with the title track, for when Pratt mutters "if you've got a bottle/pass it around" and growls "Oh come on/let's do it", it emanates with an anguish and, well, pain that belies any cultural signifiers.

To continue with that sense of sonic vertigo, the last four songs step away again from what should nominally come in the wake of such frenetic energy. 'Sex Witch' is another Hardiman track that has that seductive, melodic Sonic Youth charm, evoking both innocence born and lost without giving preference to either side of the barbed-wire fence. 'On' takes a more motorik approach, wrapping around a Mascis drawl and circular squall, and some spidery fretwork playing like an Eastern breakdown on the periphery.

Then there are the last two tracks. 'Dead Air' throws what little there is of the tattered Deaf Wish playbook into a blender, spewing forth a feedback-drenched devolution of the entirety of the band's existence in a quivering, electrifying six-and-a-half minute mess. After that, 'Calypso' is the chagrin in the aftermath – a five-minute inventory of the damage done and the debris left behind, a cathartic yet corrosively defeated fade-out.

Pain plays like a fetid Petri dish of ideas, a culmination of a relationship that has thrived on four strong individuals that have forged very singular ways of getting life done. It's idiosyncratic and loud as fuck, and no one else could make such disparate noise stick. Pain: the quintessential Deaf Wish family album.

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