Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Years (By One Thousand Fingertips) - Attack in Black

Years (By One Thousand Fingertips)

Attack in Black
Dinealone Records.

SCQ Rating: 85%

About thirteen months ago my prejudices against Attack in Black suffered a major setback at the hands of The Curve of the Earth; a vinyl-only excursion into four-track folk songs recorded over two days in their hometown of Welland Ontario. My review of said album coarsely explored the admiration and hesitation I was struggling to decide between, and while that recording has indeed survived the test of time, I treated Attack in Black like any hung jury would: with suspicion. I mean, if that wonderful vinyl was simply some playful aside before indulging further in radio-rock’s bland flavour-of-the-month contest, SCQ wasn’t about to jump the gun and celebrate The Curve of the Earth as the dawning of a fresh, new Canadian talent. With the release of Years (By One Thousand Fingertips), I can do just that.

For those of you curious about Attack in Black’s current frame of mind, be it Marriage’s ferocious punk-rock or more aforementioned lo-fi folk, Years carries the latter’s approach but largely splits the difference. ‘Leaving Your Death in a Flowerbed’ awakens from the band’s slow slumber (a pretty stillness since 2007’s aggressive debut) and displays their new approach brilliantly; the guitars are revved with ample distortion, their vocals calm but emotive nonetheless. Despite lacking high-tech studio wizardry or audio-pyrotechnics, Attack in Black have presence… and their disinterest in polishing the package makes the results all the more engaging. Renewed energy is peppered throughout the record, as on the electric crunch of ‘Birmingham’ or the irresistible rock-hooks of ‘I’m a Rock’. While these upbeat compositions lack the predictable punk-isms of the 00’s – namely attitude and a fair share of screaming – I credit Years with a true punk flair. Rarely has a band purposefully derailed their high-profile potential to record their songs their way (issuing a vinyl-only album mere months after their debut, choosing to create a home-based studio and man production efforts themselves). Instead of becoming the next Can-rock bubble band, Attack in Black sound closer to the next cult classic; adventurous, messy, non-committal, chameleon-ish and yet wholly Canadian.

When they aren’t performing electric-tinged rock tunes, Years revels in the band’s well-honed acoustic side. As The Curve of the Earth presented several shades of grey, imbedding their tunes with tones of optimism, dread or numbness, Years’ slower material flourishes over broad emotional territories. ‘I Could Turn’ starts with a jangling guitar-line for late-night wandering and a collapsing drum-pattern, before building into a loser-anthem of fleeting confidence while ‘Messenger Bird’ is a gorgeous piano ode to perseverance that recalls After the Goldrush era Neil Young. ‘The Surface I Would Travel’ closes the disc with subdued vocal harmonies, tastefully intimate bass and some echo/feedback-induced experimentation, leaving the listener in a romantic haze.

At a hefty sixteen tracks, Years is bound and fortified by its variety and while a few tracks could’ve arguably hit the editing room floor, I prefer its current manifestation. Coupled with The Curve of the Earth, Attack in Black are creating albums singular through their own trademarks; between-song experimenting, rustic instrumentation, and songwriting that suits its brave production. Years (By One Thousand Fingertips) is emotionally complicated, creatively loaded and beautifully packaged… Attack in Black’s first minor classic.

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