3 out of 5
Label: Hawthorne Street Records
Produced by: Chris Ownes
While I don’t necessarily want to limit my reception to a band just based on their members’ resumes, Brain Banger, featuring the bassist and drummer from Young Widows, sound very much like Young Widows. However, we have to assume that when 2/3rds of a band forms another band that there’s a reason, and that does seem to track, here: Young Widows is often very heavy and very moody and sometimes both at the same time, and bassist Nick and drummer Jeremy – joined by Patrick Hume from Lords on guitar – perhaps wanted to lighten things up a bit, while sticking to Widows’ (and other linked bands – Coliseum, Breather Resist, etc.) hardcore roots.
Their first release as this trio, Yellow Belly, married Nick’s meaty yowl and on-the-nose, I’m-disenchanted-with-life lyrics and mapped them to a slightly more directly rocking Widows variant, perhaps closer to their earlier releases; sound. This followup EP, Munsoned, continues to streamline that approach, pushing away the burly low-end for almost a poppy sound at points, albeit tempered by some good ol’ shouting and chugga-chugga riffing. But otherwise, we have some pretty straight-ahead rock, with attempts at singing, and verse-chorus-verse structuring, and it rather all feels like a compromise. The tracks are all pretty short, dropping out before they’re allowed to build up to much, and though Nick stumbles across some interesting lyrical visuals, there’s the same sense of restraint – it’s like the group is worried about being pigeonholed as hardcore, or punk, and in trying to maintain a free-flowing, energetic approach, the songs are very much get-in-get-out. …Which ultimately results in it being pretty milquetoast. Chris Owens production doesn’t assist this: nothing much feels defined in the sound; even at full blast, it’s somewhat murky.
On the other hand, these same qualities – perhaps production aside – make Munsoned a pretty easy, breezy listen. It definitely rocks, just not, like, super hard, and falls into the pile of things that can be fun to listen to, but tend to remind you of something else you’d rather put on instead.