A horrible hack



Year Released: 2014
Format: LP
Label: Art For Blind Records - Barely Regal
Reviewed by MH on Sep 18, 2014
This one has been a long time coming. Having released a number of shorter records, tapes and splits we now finally get a chance to hear a full length from Plaids. It goes without saying that I was excited to hear this one and it's not just me. There is a healthy amount of expectation from this record thanks partly to the strength of everything they have done up until now and also their explosive live shows.

Plaids are still on the numbers game and this kicks off with "nineteen" which opens quietly before hurtling in different directions whilst retaining intensity levels at top notch. The track closes in the bleakness of its closing line, "With battered arms and aching feet we turn around and take a seat, safe in the knowledge I wouldn't be standing without this crutch, safe in the knowledge I wouldn't be breathing without her touch". The opening half of this album will take your head off - it's only when "twenty five" appears with its more extended and slower, dreamier opening that they pause for respite and even then the track builds to a more chaotic second half. It's then that "twenty six" comes flying out and it's classic Plaids flying along at breakneck speed and while it hovers on the edge of total collapse the riffs and rhythm section are so tight that it kind of throws you around tauntingly without dropping you off the edge altogether. This one winds and winds it's way up before exploding. The mayhem behind Joe Caithness's strained vocals on this track is balanced by the sheer intricacy of the riffs. In spite of the chaos and pace on this record the changes of tack are so tight and intricate. They also retain a huge directness and it's an absolute assault, barrage and onslaught throughout. Lyrically, it might be a stretch to refer to the songs as abstract but you might have to think harder as to what the topics are but that has always been the case with Plaids. It's wholly refreshing and would be similar to interpreting some of Bob Tilton's lyrics. You can discuss the metaphors in "Butterfly" all day long and you'd have a similar challenge here. Towards the end, the chaotic "twenty nine" features superlative guitar breaks amongst the more powerful rhythm section and is positively claustrophobic: "In a room a similar shape and size to ours someone just like us moves around. Rearranges the furniture and leaves from a different door, using the window when it suits."

While this record carries on in the vein of their previous output, there is a little broadening, exploration and honing of their sound. I've mentioned in previous reviews that 80s Dischord has a major influence on Plaids and we can get more specific here as the cleaner bite to the sound is very reminiscent of One Last Wish. It's not just the fact that there are so few bands exploring that era as an influence that draws me to Plaids either. Rhythm and pace change constantly and you don't quite know what is coming next. Above all that, there is one hell of a punch to the record and it's teeming with energy and urgency much like At The Drive-in at the height of their powers. One of the more noticeable changes in their sound here is the addition of slower, spacey and dreamlike elements that suggest an appreciation of 90s shoegaze. There aren't many of these moments, but you'll notice it along the way. On the other hand, at their most frenetic, some of the riffs on here are like a cleaner version of what you might have heard on a Gravity Records 7inch in 1993 so, take note, there is mayhem here. It's this combination of sounds and influences that make Plaids such an enthralling and compelling proposition and they have absolutely nailed it with this set of songs. I am similarly excited about this record as I was with the Human Hands LP that arrived in the first few weeks of this year. Need I say any more?

Recommended record by Collective Zine!

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