The Messthetics: The Messthetics Album Review
For fans hoping for some sort of reunion of the 1990s hardcore punk band Fugazi, The Messthetics might be about as close of a reunion they’ll get. Consisting of Fugazi bassist Joe Lally and drummer Brendan Canty, alongside solo guitarist Anthony Pirog, The Messthetics have quietly burst onto the music scene in 2018 with their debut album of the same name. It may not be an album that grabs a lot of headlines, but it’s a worthy listen for fans of aggressive rock music, especially from a band that includes two performers who haven’t released new music in nearly a decade.
While The Messthetics does have the same post-hardcore sound that many Fugazi originals have, listeners can tell from first listen that the album is not a mere clone of earlier works. Two major differences are particularly noticeable. First, the album is entirely instrumental. It’s a logical move, as neither of Fugazi’s lead singers is present on the record, but fans of the original lineup will undoubtedly miss the shrieking vocals of Ian MacKaye and Guy Picciotto. Second, The Messthetics largely removes the animosity and bite harbored by most Fugazi tunes. Of course, a primary reason for this is the absence of any lyrics, but the instrumentals are more reserved as well. Canty and Lally substitute Fugazi’s emphasis on anger and frustration with attention to technical skill and musicianship in a move that makes sense for an older, more experienced group of artists.
This move in this artistic direction proves to be worthwhile, as The Messthetics put together a cohesive, nine-track, post-hardcore album with enjoyable moments aplenty. The opening track “Mythomania” is an eerie ride of ambiance and irregularity, but it’s a fitting opening to an album that covers new ground for Lally and Canty. Newcomer Anthony Pirog makes himself immediately noticeable too, thanks to numerous instances of guitar-shredding insanity spread throughout the piece. The following number “Serpent Tongue,” a repetitious, upbeat thrill rocker with electrifying guitar work galore, not only displays The Messthetics’ newfound diversity when contrasted with the atmosphere of the preceding track but also demonstrates the intense, energetic clamor that Fugazi fans have been craving for 15 years.
As for the aforementioned reserved side of The Messthetics, there’s “Once Upon a Time,” a laid-back rocker that’s about as relaxing as a song with that kind of heavy guitar can get. “The Inner Ocean” is likely the record’s softest tune, acting as an atmospheric break that only includes Pirog’s dynamic guitar for about half of its six-minute runtime. “The Weaver,” the album’s final track, also fits the bill as a more subdued tune, but the song also surprises by including previously unheard elements of acoustic guitar and fiddle, an act that proves that Lally and Canty have yet to exhaust their bag of tricks.
For as hushed as much of the album is, there’s still plenty of hardcore rocking for fans to indulge in. Take “Quantum Path,” for example, a high-energy arena anthem that never loses its edge for its entire five-minute duration. Then there’s “Crowds and Power,” which may be the best example of the album’s energy. The opening minute thrashes and pounds like a typical Fugazi tune before taking a somewhat jazzy, mellow approach to the song’s middle section, then closing with the same vigor and ferocity that the song began with, a fine representation of the peaks and valleys of The Messthetics.
Like any new artist’s first work, The Messthetics has its hitches. A few moments here and there are unnecessarily dragged out, and the record probably could have done without both of the minute-long interludes bookending “The Inner Ocean.” As for its place in post-hardcore history, The Messthetics is not a true standout album or a big development in an unexplored territory in the genre. It may represent something new for Lally and Canty compared to their previous accomplishments, but it’s unlikely to be a work that stands out among its contemporaries.
Still, it’s a fine piece of work: an excellent rebirth back into music making for Lally and Canty. And there’s no doubt that the youth and technical skill of Anthony Pirog have added to the group’s musical ability and professional-sounding output. If the band’s goal was to simply re-enter the music industry by getting off to a hot start, then they’ve certainly succeeded in that objective. The future looks bright for The Messthetics, and should the trio continue their musical career, they’ve got a fantastic stepping stone to build off of in their debut album.
DJ Bauer is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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