The Upshot: American hardcore gets updated for the Trump era, and as with the Reagan era before it, a shitty “now” demands a sonic “wow.”
BY FRED MILLS
A telling little biographical note: this Austin band’s founder, Drew Schmitz originally hails from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a state which, in recent years, is primarily known for producing the likes of Bon Iver, at least music world-wise. However, if you tug back the time veil a tad to the ‘80s, you’ll encounter such punk, hardcore, and noise bands as Die Kreuzen, Couch Flambeau, Tar Babies, Appliances-SFB, and of course Killdozer. (Yes, yes, I do have a Wikipedia app on my desktop—but I also own records by each of those groups.) Actual influences, sheer coincidence, or otherwise, that’s all still a reasonable reference point when assessing the sheer sonic whomp that is Empty Markets, a trio following in the footsteps of Schmitz’s previous three-piece, Cruddy, but upping the overall ante considerably.
Cruddy, in fact, has been described as an exercise in bleakness; Empty Markets is a band wandering across an even darker landscape. Zero in on, for example, the blurry maelstrom that is “New Religion,” which wouldn’t sound out of place at a punk club during the Reagan era of declamatory anti-manifestos. The minor chord motif and pummeling rhythms of “Home Invasion” convey paranoia of the tune’s titular suggestion. And the title track is the musical equivalent of a twister whirling in from the plains to lay waste to your homestead—and then doing a 360 in order to come back and finish off the job. It’s also the best rip, in recent memory at least, of the Stooges’ eternal “TV Eye,” what with those descending chords and, er, major rawk action drumming, courtesy one Jordan Rivell.
Schmitz is joined on the album by Rivell, plus bassist Wendy Wright, who lends a righteously shouty element to the vocal choruses (she has since departed the band). One could ruminate at length on the nature of power trios as regards Empty Markets, but I think you get the idea here. If nothing else, the industrial strength album artwork, which depicts an unforgiving landscape of steel screws arrayed like so many ballistic missiles, should prompt a purchase or two out here in the hinterlands where the term “No future!” wasn’t just a punk rock slogan, but a goddamn lingering imperative. Consumer Note: Available on sturdy 150gm black vinyl, although the first 125 copies were served up on sweet clear wax, Jack.
DOWNLOAD: “Stainless Steel,” “Rash Decision,” “Home Invasion”