WALL - Untitled

by Jon Burke Rating:8 Release Date:2017-04-28

WALL’s story has been told so many times now its critical cliché but, briefly, they were a band when untitled was recorded but they broke-up shortly thereafter. Because untitled is excellent, many fans are disappointed there will be no more WALL. If there is one reason to mourn WALL, aside from losing the greatness of their bleak-as-fuck, post-punk sound, it’s that WALL won’t be contributing more to the movement of new, feminist punk rockers currently shaking-up the music world. Priests, Mitski, Tacocat, and Chastity Belt are among the groups at the forefront of the movement directly confronting our current political paradigm. Untitled is ten tracks worth of proof that WALL’s contribution to the movement was vital and could have evolved into something even greater had the band weathered their personal turmoil.

The opening track “High Ratings” is a tight, nervous guitar track punctuated by singer Sam York’s staccato delivery. By the time York begins her chant “Validate me, validate me, validate me!” many listeners will be too tense to resist the urge to move; toes will tap, shoulders shake and heads nod. WALL may live in a negative world but they’ll be dancing at the apocalypse.

Tracks like “Shimmer of Fact”, “Everything In Between” and “Turn Around” establish an odd locomotion through moody rhythms and droning guitars. With the beat laid down, their heads hung low, WALL begin to strut or shamble forward depending on the track. York’s vocals, barely above a whisper at times, often resembles spoken word and add another percussive element to the mix.

Two songs standout as oddballs on untitled – the cover of Half Japanese’s “Charmed Life” and the album’s closer, the epic length (by WALL standards) “River Mansion”. Though neither is bad, their placement on the record changes the flavor of the album as a whole. “Charmed Life” is a sweet, up-tempo song and, while WALL definitely refine the irony and cynicism at play to razor sharpness, the fun of the original still prevails – fun being almost antithetical to WALL’s collective identity. As for “River Mansion” its slow burn, long-form, “Day of the Lords” meets “Dead Souls” sound is very different from anything else on the record. WALL is capable of interesting tempo changes and dynamic shifts. There is something rather anticlimactic when a record with such varied character as untitled ends with a song so homogenously plodding. “River Mansion” is indeed nuanced and more than just a Joy Division rip-off but the nuance is so subtle it requires a complete shift in the way listeners’ consume the record which is off-putting but mysterious and only adds to the brilliance of untitled as a whole.

The hints at the future direction WALL would head are peppered throughout untitled. The album is so much more than many of the band’s contemporaries who amount to barely more than three chords and a screamer. WALL will be missed.

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