Pet Genius – Pet Genius

4 out of 5

Label: Hydra Head

Produced by: Kurt Ballou

As part of Cave In, Stephen Brodsky helped marry the group’s mathcore metal to more experimental soundscapes, peaking with either Jupiter or Antenna, possibly depending on which side of the major label / indie label fence you fall on.  Both of those albums are pretty good (I prefer Antenna, m’self), but despite his role in the genesis of the band, Steve always felt like an odd fit amongst the throaty theatrics of the group; it always seemed like they wanted to sound like something else.

Listening to Steve’s solo outings betrayed a massive Beatles influence, suggesting what that ‘something else’ might’ve been, and this would get merged with further psychedelics on his first Octave Museum release.  And then there’s also been Pet Genius, and Mutoid Man.  And we have to remember: conflict drove Cave In’s sound: yeah, there was melody and electronics happening, but there was also, definitely, metal.  That side of Steve would rear its rock-loving self in both of those other groups, with Pet Genius’ debut – and a big, likely thanks to producer Kurt Ballou for this – tearing out of the gates with a lovely, lively, lo-fi stomp of mad riffage and pounding drums.  PGs opening and closing slew of tracks are so damn good, and so damn fun, and something about the simplified format – generally just find a catchy tune and turn it up loud – appreciably sucks out the more indulgent poetics of Brodsky’s writing: on Pet Genius, we hear some basic but defined narratives, and then some light-hearted thoughts or memories from youth.  It’s concise; it’s not wholly affecting, but it totally works to carry us from verse to chorus to verse.

In the middle of the disc, the album lacks some immediacy, relying on a couple of filler tracks and slower tracks to bring us to the crunching blues of Chromatic Blues and the perfect junk percussion of closer Scrapyard King (both aptly named titles, obviously); the slower bits are closer to that Beatles-y influence than the rock n’ roll that tears through the rest of the disc, but the songs are still loaded with lots of guitarness to make them very, very listenable.

Maybe to the extent that I’ve listened to more non-Cave In Brodsky groups’ releases than I have from the band itself…