When Vestli kicks off with The New Year’s Resolution and its gigantic, fuzzed-out riff comes ploughing forth, it’s all the confirmation needed that Spielbergs could be on top of the world. They’ve always given off the impression of a band ready to ride good will from the indie blogs into the stratosphere, all the way back with their earliest stuff, but this is where that really comes to fruition. That’s not in any uncertain terms either; compared to 2019’s This Is Not The End—already a good album but one that was afflicted with indie-rock’s oft-present first-timer’s bloat—Vestli is impressively more lean and motored, practically across the board.
It’s to the point where so much of Spielbergs’ initial hype that might’ve originally passed to the side strikes more effectively now. Again, that’s not to deny the quality that was there from the start, but now they’ve grown into their ambitions, pairing Cloud Nothings-esque noise-rock with a grandeur that’s almost fitting of a band like Feeder. Just take songs like When They Come For Me and Every Living Creature, sprinting out of the gate, arms aloft, and with some of Spielbergs’ most widescreen production to date. It’s never at the mercy of their own teeth though, as Me And My Friends and Brother Of Mine still play around with rough-and-tumble guitars and bass running into each other, the sort of indie-rock that could realistically collapse in on itself but ultimately keeps its looseness advantageous.
That’s ‘looseness’ in a couple of senses, mind, namely how Spielbergs haven’t totally shaken the shagginess that could sometimes burden their debut. It’s less of an issue here though, when the conscious effort to channel it into grander moments can help a lot. Even then, something like the extended closer You Can Be Yourself With Me is extremely well blended in how its spare melody grows and evolves with a lot of suitably climactic energy. Most of all though, Vestli feels as though it properly lives up to the sense of desperation that’s always coloured Spielbergs’ work. Mads Baklien’s low-in-the-mix yelps feel like a deliberate choice, to illustrate stories about being trapped and burned-out, and wanting to just erupt outside of it all. Power and purpose stand out far more for Spielbergs to really make use of what they’ve got, and come out with something wonderful from it.
And that’s where Vestli really comes into its own, as an unmistakable crystallisation of just how far Spielbergs can soar after making their ever-anticipated leap. The drive and the backing have never been issues, but they’ve finally hit the perfect trajectory and jumping-off point, and it shines through in spades. Topped off with a real meatiness to it that brings out even more from it with each spin, and it’s no question whether Spielbergs have reached their apex.
For fans of: Cloud Nothings, Japandroids, …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead
‘Vestli’ by Spielbergs is released on 19th August on Big Scary Monsters.
THICK’s 5 Years Behind was the sort of invaluable breakthrough that’s an ideal jumping-off point, even if little else. Despite not totally feeling like its own thing among indie-punk, it clearly earmarked a band for whom a lot of confidence and melodic acumen was a considerable boon for them, and felt as though it captured the zeitgeist of the scene pretty much perfectly. In the two years since, said scene hasn’t really moved around that much (or this specific pocket of it, anyway), but that’s more to THICK’s benefit if anything.
They’ve definitely improved on Happy Now, a tighter, more kinetic album that’s a bit more wary of the boundaries its environment will likely impose on it, and simply works in a better way for it. Because really, THICK still aren’t a force for grand innovation, albeit not in a critical way; they can get a lot from the cable-knit guitars that verge on grunge on Loser or Your Garden, fed through the notably poppy lens that comes from the built-in vocal sweetness.
Other than the motorik post-punk bassline on Happiness, THICK are pretty set within their scene, but they can pull it off in a far more likable fashion. For one, they aren’t strung up by how twee this can sometimes feel, even if the overall tone and mixing of the vocals can sometimes suggest otherwise. More often, THICK remain grounded and conscious of the humanity in their writing, as they cycle between snark and sass to strike back at the blows thrown at them on Loser or My Chapstick, and a realism that comes from moving forward without succumbing to toxic positivity that can sometimes be just as damaging.
They’re really good at striking a balance that remains anthemic throughout, on an album with little outright filler as it is that only feels even more bracing because of it. Most of all though, THICK have an undeniable energy and magnetism that a lot of their contemporaries lack, just in the way they carry themselves that punches a bit harder and higher overall. This is a step up from their debut, and a noteworthy one at that, enough to completely nail THICK down as one of the stronger names in modern indie-punk, in the most definitive way yet.
For fans of: Dream Nails, Martha, Cayetana
‘Happy Now’ by THICK is released on 19th August on Epitaph Records.
Dedication To Flesh
At a time when deathcore has amassed a more complimentary reputation than that of cavemen incomprehensibly chugging away ad infinitum, the leverage that Spite have had among certain communities seems to be working in their favour. You can picture a similar trajectory towards becoming online favourites that Slaughter To Prevail gained last year, only perhaps with something more akin to a blackened hardcore bent as their own particular twist.
Regardless, Dedication To Flesh is exactly as heavy and evil as it needs to be, even to a degree where Spite really begin to click on something cool with the title track’s axe-chop gallop, or how The Sons Of Dawn feels almost cut from a thrash cloth in how the drumming picks up to let in guitars more fit for exsanguinating cuts than pure bludgeoning. Add on the contributions of vocalist Darius Tehrani, an exemplary showing of current deathcore’s archetype of gravel-throated animal-man on an insatiable warpath, and Dedication To Flesh really does slot into that upper tier without much fuss.
There’s maybe a tiny bit of bloat responsible for any resistance to that; on an album whose only example of ‘letting up’ is a minute-and-a-half drone piece that could just as easily be contorted screams of the damned on Sounds For The Descent, it can be a bit of marathon when the overall pacing is similarly deliberate. Of course, that’s probably the point, in what’s effectively Spite’s systematic ripping apart of who or whatever gets in their way, cranking up the violence and malice to typically exorbitant levels.
Sure, it’s hardly artful, though no one with even a fleeting interest in something like this expects it to be. Rather, Spite pull off a really strong version of their chosen formula, in the downtuned guitars and clobbering drums mixed for all-encompassing size. That’s what you want from an album like this, even with the excess bulk, and Spite can deliver that handily.
For fans of: Slaughter To Prevail, Enterprise Earth, Varials
‘Dedication To Flesh’ by Spite is released on 19th August on Rise Records.
North East Coastal Town
The post-punk revolution runs fast and strong through LIFE, more so than a lot of their contemporaries. Even though that’s yet to manifest in the same sort of breakthrough, despite two albums with generally positive reception, they give off the feeling that they’ve got more to offer. On something of a whistle-stop tour of each scene subdivision with remarkable accuracy, North East Coastal Town sees them pipe up as one of this wave’s most reliably good bands, to make up for innovation charitably described as lacking.
Of course that isn’t a slight exclusive to LIFE in post-punk, but their breadth of genre exploration can compound it a bit more readily. The component parts tend to remain the same—a lot of thick basslines and slate-grey guitar snarls topped off by Mez Sanders-Green’s sardonic witticism—but it’s the way they’re rearranged from track to track that shows how widely and deeply their influences run.
On the other hand though, LIFE prove a difficult band to fault in terms of sheer efficiency when it comes to getting it right. They’re a bit iffier on the slow lurches on Duck Egg Blue and All You Are, but they seldom stumble elsewhere. The sweltering quiver of Big Moon Lake and Self Portrait are about as propulsively rock-solid as can be hoped for, as are the sonorous, bleak overhangs of Almost Home and Shipping Forecast, and a surprisingly credible slide into 2000s indie-rock on The Drug. It’s impressively proficient, doubly so for how little is diluted across the board.
What really sticks though, is how openly likable this feels compared to others in its field. It’s hard to pin down what it is, when LIFE do still play in the same ballpark of regionalised Britishness to backdrop their often harrowed tales, but it isn’t insignificant. LIFE just feel more fleshed-out for what they’re trying to do, set in their ways but not to where they’re hemmed in, and feeling freer and more expressive for it. The post-punk itch continues to be scratched long after subsiding, but LIFE are more than welcome to keep their place among the more worthwhile of the scene.
For fans of: Fontaines D.C., Sports Team, TV Priest
‘North East Coastal Town’ by LIFE is released on 19th August on The Liquid Label.
Words by Luke Nuttall