A deeper look at the grooves pressed into Seized Up’s Brace Yourself LP. Ever heard an album which hits the mark brilliantly and causes you to remember why you like or got into one particular type of music or another, reader? Brace Yourself, the new album by Seized Up, hit me like that – about half the time while it played. The other half of the albums runtime just had me hoping it would find a way to regain its own momentum. That would be fine (although not ideal, obviously) if it meant that one side of the album was great and the other wasn’t, but Brace Yourself is not consistent like that; there are great songs interspersed on both sides and tedious ones sewn in the same way. That means listeners really need to be patient when they’re listening – or sit close to their turntables in order to lift and drop the needle repeatedly (and this critic is pretty sure that nobody really likes doing that).
The A-side of Brace Yourself opens with the raucous assault of “Manic Decompression,” which may see punks who like their music cut with metallic grit jumping onboard with the band excitedly, and will certainly get metal heads who favor the shreddier side of the metal spectrum to pay attention too – but more listeners may lay up than one might expect. Why? Well, this first blast really leans on atonal sounds (some of the guitar chords are just fucking brutal – like the screech-fest which starts at around the 1:45 mark) instead of really trying to build momentum smoothly, so it comes off sounding like a fairly impotent bleat (not unlike the one that the singer lets escape at the 1:48 mark). “Human Locusts” improves the side’s running dramatically and sees Seized Up landing on an ultra-aggressive permutation of hardcore with solid results. There, singer Clifford Dinsmore and guitarist Danny B. arrive at a sound comparable to an ultra-violent version of what the Circle Jerks were doing in the early Eighties, but amped and powered up to several steps beyond the levels even that band was capable of. That impression (of Keith Morris having the worst day of his life as the tape rolls) continues as “Disastroid Mutation” blazes through at shocking speeds (and sees drummer Andy Granelli keep a similar presence to that of Lucky Lehrer on the drum kit, if not his virtuosity) which, in turn, folds into the more metallic “Tent City Exodus.” That transition marks a really problematic turn for the song; while metal and hardcore have obvious timbres which easily cross between each other (in theory – punks and metal heads often contest this claim), there has always been something awkward about the give and take between the two forms. That conflict is put into great relief here as the drums spontaneously go from speeding to stomping (not much faster than a trudge, really), and the fury seems to become a little hobbled as one form tries to reconcile with the other with (as stated before) awkward results.
After “Tent City Exodus,” Seized Up manages to re-establish its hardcore rhythm for “Older and Wiser” which yields a great relief for listeners who may have been getting increasingly concerned, but then the band loses it again with the speedy tantrum “Bleeding Fingers” – which owns that name with its quick and repetitive riffs and lyrics like, “You find yourself immersed in everything you hate” (which made this critic regurgitate a little into his mouth – when he heard it). That conclusion doesn’t feel like the best way to end the side in the slightest, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t end there.
The B-side of Brace Yourself‘s fortunes present as instantly improved as “Terminal Disarray” makes complete confusion and disillusionment sound like one hell of a good time, and that energy stays up through the great, short blast that is “Sobriety Hurts.” There again, Dinsmore comes off as sounding like Keith Morris’ twin brother as he turns hard luck into a party, and comes up with a solid line to stand behind when he asks, “Where can I find a pastime that lets me fuck shit up?”
After the success manifested by “Terminal Disarray,” Seized Up plays with the images that every punk band from X to NOFX to Green Day has played around with in the self-explanatory “Taking Back The Neighborhood” (which is every inch the call to arms you think it is, reader) before making “losing” a party with “Blob of Mediocrity” and then finally letting bassist Chuck Platt drive for one cut (“Shadow Panther”) to close out the album. Now, choosing to close the album with the only cut which seems to be in danger of drowning under its own low end is likely not the single greatest idea that the band (or the album’s producer, or their label’s A&R rep) ever had but, as weak as it is, it doesn’t destroy the the ground that the band made with this release either; sequencing an album is something it can take several releases to learn, so Seized Up will have the chance to improve.
Reading through this review, it likely comes across that I bitterly dislike Brace Yourself but (ha ha, brace yourself, readers), that’s not the case. Yes, Brace Yourself cannot be mistaken for great, but there are more than a few cuts which show a whole lot of promise here – and Seized Up will have time to examine that as well as refining their sound and style on future releases. True, they may still fuck up and could deftly snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, but we won’t know for sure until we get more music – and Brace Yourself certainly leaves a thirst for that in its wake. [Bill Adams]
Brace Yourself is out now. Buy it here, directly from Pirates Press Records.