s/t (Standard Edition black vinyl reissue) LP
After Longstocking met its end in 1997, singer/guitarist Tamala Poljak was clearly still riding some residual inspiration when they began assembling the music which would become Infinite X’s’ debut album. When the time finally came to start recording, the group of players assembled to comprise the band gave an ideal illustration of what it would sound like; Poljak’s pedigree was all about West coast post-grunge and college rock, Jody Bleyle (of Team Dresch) contributed a bit of the added crunch and snarl, and Whitney Skillcorn (of The Little Deaths) brought with her a healthy helping of San Francisco-issued Queercore credibility. Now, on paper, the results read a fair bit different from the sound of the record itself, but it was absolutely, positively no less magical than the above discussion implies, and that magic endures un-faded with time on the new vinyl reissue, released on Jealous Butcher Records.
Some readers/critics who haven’t experienced Infinite X’s may be skeptical and worry that the above is little more than just a really hard pitch – but they’ll discover that those words pale in comparison to the power expressed by the band as it blows the doors open on the A-side of the record with “Welcome To The Show.” There, the power and potential energy is apparent immediately as the drums at the opening of the song tap on nerve endings just the right way to titillate listeners before Jody Bleyle’s bass punches in, crowned by the nasal but perfectly affecting guitars supplied by the all-star team of Poljak and Skillcorn. Now, just as was the case nineteen years ago, listeners will definitely be engaged and ready to follow where the band leads, but it is truly Skillcorn’s vocal which seals the deal here; the vocals call out brightly from this mix and command attention.
The exact same sort of sonic design is upheld after “Welcome To The Show” in “Brand New Reconnection,” but the form borders on hypnotic, in this case; as the song opens, Skillcorn causes listeners to crane their necks hard in hopes of being able to collect lines like “I’m lookin’ for a brand new re-connection/ Did you take that walk in the park?/ I can’t see my next destination/ I can tell you don’t want to talk.” There’s a charmed mix of frustration and poignant delivery here that will simply pull listeners along, seemingly with no effort at all; Skillcorn already knows that her performance in “Welcome To The Show” won listeners, and she’s playing with them a little here – so when drums enter the mix about a half a minute into the song, Scotty Walsh lays up a little bit and leaves plenty of open space in the mix to be filled with vocals which sound like they might have been inspired by Liz Phair’s Girlysound cassettes a little, as well as a great and winding bass part.
It’s a pretty intoxicating sound and will have listeners curious to hear how it turns and to where before the song lets out.
…And as soon as listeners feel as though they have a bead drawn on where the record might be going, the next cut on the side (“What I Believe”) totally throws a curve ball which has listeners hypnotized. There, the energy in the song spontaneously shifts gears and the vibes go from self-assured competence to a more nervous attack; Jody Bleyle takes the lead and her vocal veers between “very alt-rock” mumble and very poignant stanzas which punctuate key moments. The result will have listeners held in complete fascination – they’ll scramble to decode what indeed Bleyle is all about between exclamations of, “That’s what I believe,” and that will cause listeners listeners to go back repeatedly and restart the song to make sure they got it all. What powers “What I Believe” is very possibly the most genuine and honest hook in indie rock.
After “What I Believe” plays out as it does and hooks listeners the way it does, Infinite X’s tests listeners to make sure that hook is really set with the decidedly European sound of “Donna” (which kind of predates the “dance-punk” craze which manifested in the 2010s as it simmers on a great and danceable beat) before getting a little heartbroken in a way similar to how The Replacements did on Don’t Tell A Soul for “Bittersweet,” before “The Body’s Beat” blasts out to close the side with beautiful vocal harmonies, lean guitar tones and an understated aggression which ensures listeners will come along for the B-side. Here, again, an easy comparison would be to cite something like Girlysound – but the truth is that the appeal about the song is more complicated than that. The frenetic energy about the song coupled with the overdriven guitar in it is simultaneously caustic and brilliant, and the regularly shifting vocal melody (which varies from very poppy to a weird, descending counterpoint) is great bait which will have listeners trying to inhabit it, even as the needle lifts from the record.
Perhaps because the band knows they’re onto something, Infinite X’s keep the tempo on which the A-side ended at exactly the same level for the opening of the B-. “Shoot ‘Em In The Foot” seethes along with an incredibly surly guitar tone and positively punchy bass, and then lets listeners fall off an emotional cliff as the group shifts gears and opens the second cut on the side with discussions of Ikea furniture (“Rearrange some books, go buy some furniture/I could build some shelves…”) before punching listeners in the face with a well-placed, distorted jab, and then slides back into seething territory for “A Funny Place to Start to Cry,” and then resolving with the very “Nineties College Rock” hard/soft dynamics of “Chosen One” – which closes both the side and the album.
…And that’s how it ends.
Now, just as was true when the album was new in 2002, the Jealous Butcher Records reissue makes the most of indie composition and presentation; pressed on black vinyl, the EQ has some extra punch on the low end as well as a greater ring on the high end. In addition (obviously), the tracklist has been augmented to ensure that all the cuts play smoothly and fit neatly on the two sides of vinyl onto which this reissue is pressed. That, logically, does not make this release a straightforward reissue – but listeners familiar with the original release will be hard-pressed to complain with the results. This reissue of Infinite X’s is a great release; a solid reproduction which benefits from the few changes that have been made. It could actually be argued that this reissue is slightly better than the original, in fact. [Bill Adams]
The Jealous Butcher Records vinyl reissue of Infinite X’s is out now. Buy it here, directly from Jealous Butcher.