The Upshot: Austin trio stakes out its own punk rock territory and dares anyone to encroach upon it.
BY FRED MILLS
Austin’s Xetas—not to be confused with Mexican mafiosos Los Zetas—initially surfaced in 2014, hell-bent on disrupting the complacent music scene and quickly releasing their debut 45, “The Silence” / “The Knife,” which left this publication’s reviewer suitably blown away by the group’s outsized attitude and “drill-bit guitars” driving their points home. This was followed the next year by the full length The Redeemer and Austin hasn’t been the same since.
Now comes The Tower, and to say that it matches its predecessor for sheer primal oomph would be an understatement; if anything, it surpasses the 2016 album exponentially. The vinyl release explodes out of the gate with “The Gaze,” bassist K (no full names, please; there’s also guitarist D and drummer J) detailing the wages of being female and constantly beset by the leering come-ons of male Neanderthals, and against a rampaging backdrop that’s like a Superchunk anthem revved up to Buzzcockian velocity, she pummels her metaphorical aggressors—a manifesto of uncommon acuity. Elsewhere the Xetas are heard erecting a titanium-coated wall of sound (“The Burden”—key line: “I’ve had it with your cult of youth”) and gear-shifting into hardcore gallop mode (“The Body”), barely pausing to catch their breath. Standout track “The Future” careens this way and that, power chords giving way to searing arpeggios as D lays down his own dystopian vision:
“Our Future is behind us
Things we never got past
Our mistakes will define us
Chances we never get back.”
Ten powerhouse songs in all—as with Redeemer, each has a one-word title preceded by “The”— ablaze with the duly noted drill-bits, a punishing rhythm section, and barked aggro vocals. One imagines a live set clocking in at Ramones length while leaving the audience drained and shellshocked. The Tower, with its overtones of London Calling, Young Loud and Snotty, the aforementioned Buzzcocks, and Naked Raygun, has a welcome traditionalist streak, punk-wise, but this group is clearly staking out territory that precious few bands in 2017 are capable of occupying. Ultimately, Xetas are a ruthless bunch, and, like their gangster homonym, they don’t take no for an answer. Reach for the sky. (Preview the album at the group’s Bandcamp page.) (Incidentally, The Tower is not to be confused with the recent film documentary The Tower, about the 1966 Austin shootings.)
DOWNLOAD: “The Future,” “The Gaze,” “The Tower”