On Further Reflection 7” EP
At this point, now decades since hardcore reshaped the face of punk rock, it would be easy for someone who isn’t a part of the punk community (isn’t a fan) to not understand how anyone could get excited about “another punk 7”.” Really, that there’s a form and structure in place is impossible to deny; guitars are distorted, songs are fairly simple, lyrics normally hold to a reasonably confrontational form and tone and (normally) the length of a song remains brief enough that getting bored along the way is very difficult to do.
Yes, punk songs normally keep to a particular structure – but when a band gets everything they need locked down just right, the results are capable of refreshing a listener’s appreciation for the music so completely that the results can feel as good as the first time a stylus cut into a 7” for the first time. The results can be wildly exciting – and that’s what happens on Wrong War’s On Further Reflection EP.
There is no build-up at all as needle catches groove on the A-side of On Further Reflection – the running is already at full speed as the title track surges out of the gate. Here, bassist Dave Pawlowski and drummer Dan Smith set up a torrential rhythm over which guitarist Patrick Keenan layers sheets of unrelenting guitar. On first listen (or any successive play, really), the blast will make listeners blink, and therein lies the moment when singer Matt Weeks digs in with a subversive assault that will completely overtake the unsuspecting. Lines like, “On further reflection of the life/ Years and distance sharp as a knife/ Sheathed the blade so you can’t cut yourself/ For you surely would” illustrate the hard edge with which the band introduces itself, but also seeks to set itself apart from any band who could pretend to be the band’s peer by clearly delineating the difference between “us” and “them.” Wrong War keeps pressing that advantage through the duration of the entire song and, when the band finally relents after a five-minute duration, the song may screech and clatter to a close but listeners may have to actively resist the urge to wilt when the needle lifts. The first side features a spectacular amount of energy exerted both from the band and from listeners – and the idea that a similar amount of energy might be required to endure the B-side of this single is an imposing thought.
…As arduous as the assault presented by the A-side of this single might be, in fact the B-side takes twice as much stamina to endure because there are double the number of songs on it and they’re both of equal calibre to “On Further Reflection.” First up, “The Call” sears senses with electric tones which are not quite as thick as those which drove “On Further Reflection,” but they really let listeners appreciate the power of the song when it breaks stride to half-time. The lyrics are even more imposing in tone than “On Further Reflection” was (stanzas are shorter and feel more broken – as illustrated by the first lyrics in the song, “Biting place – biding time/ Stuck in here with directors/ Giving chase – seeking signs/ Mandatory to make it out alive”) and, when the song does break stride, it’s impossible not to feel the exertion that the band has used to make “The Call” happen.
And, rather than relenting or coasting to let listeners breathe, Wrong War goes for broke one more time and just batters listeners to a pulp with “Darkness Flags Unfold.” Granted, the song does shine a little brighter with a Boot Boy tone applied which is closer to Rancid in its accessibility, but but it doesn’t exactly lighten up. Lines like, “Voiceless critics/ A fool’s prize/ Told to me/ And kick the teeth in again” characterize the under-two-and-a-half-minute running of “Darkness Flags Unfold” but, by then, listeners will have already softened thanks to the beating that the EP’s other two cuts delivered and so they’ll be far more receptive to the slightly lighter delivery that the song features. In fact, those listeners who have already gone front-to-back with the EP prior to hearing “Darkness Flags Unfold” might actually feel energized enough to run through the EP again right away – when the needle lifts from the second side.
Without intending to sound coy, the desire that On Further Reflection leaves in those who go front-to-back with the EP will be for more music immediately – but the catch is that any release which follows this one will need to feature the same level of quality; the bar has been set incredibly high. In that way, while On Further Reflection is a success, Wrong War has already stacked the deck against themselves with this release because anything which comes next will have to be greater and more substantial to feel like a satisfying follow-up. [Bill Adams]
The On Further Reflection 7” EP is out now. Buy it here, from Council Records.