The rules of pop used to make things very clear. A band with members numbering double figures is an orchestra, one with less than three is a duo…a lounge act, the sort of thing that you’d find at the bar of the Ramada Inn doing jaded covers to jaded listeners and probably billed as a popular beat combo.
But somewhere along the line something changed, technology began to compensate for mere numbers, new possibilities presented themselves and suddenly even the lowly 2-piece could be anything they wanted to be. And what GagReflex wanted to be was a big, aggressive, punk leviathan, which is just as well really.
The fact that they are a bass and drum set up means that they are massively rhythmic in their delivery, but a straight four-four approach just wouldn’t really cut it and so with Stuart Hawkins mixing thundering bottom end with dexterous riffs and runs across the four string and Seb Goffe’s skittering fills, rampant rolls, solid drives and underpinning emphasis, they have created something far more interesting. Interesting and then some. And somehow the absence of widdly lead guitars and power chords seems to keep things cleaner limbed and certainly more inventive. The fact that you can see the musical machinations that the two of them employ to build their songs is not only wonderfully honest but fantastically hypnotic. Is Math punk too much of a mutually exclusive concept?
And lyrically there is a lot more going on than you would expect from the format, dark and savagely intelligent commentary on the world around them is spat at the listener matching the aggression of the music. Lit-punk anyone?
Anyone who has seen the band live might have once wondered if it would be possible to catch the raw energy of the band on record, harness the savage musical knife-edge they walk, the one that throws experimental ideas and jazz references into the punk, rock and metal melting pot. Well, this album is the proof that it can be done and that punk can be big and clever…though the term punk might need some qualification in their case.
Prog-punk? Jazz-core? Punk with a college education?….oh, I give up. Just listen to the damn album!