PICK OF THE WEEK: Daily grind twists Kowloon Walled City’s nerves on punchy ‘Grievances’

KWCHey, guess what? I don’t have to work for the next two days. It’s fantastic. I am happy, and I plan to enjoy the autumn air, my time with my wife and animal family, and what the hell, I may have some beers and listen to records. But Monday, that all goes away. How imminently depressing that is, the end of all the fun times. At least for another week.

I’m never really one to bitch when Monday comes around, though. I’ve been unemployed twice for long stretches the past five years, through no fault of my own, and so I always try to remind myself that I could be asleep and wallowing in depression over the fact that my career is dead. When you really sit and think about that, though, that’s also is depressing. Our role here on the planet, through no choice of our own, is to toil endlessly in order to survive. We’re part of a cycle that most of us can’t just opt out of, and if we do, we struggle. Some of us even die. Our need for employment is something that hangs over our head (and causes me unneeded stress because after having two jobs dissolve, every mistake you make is coated in anxiety), and it’s the theme of “Grievances,” the new record from Kowloon Walled City. You can see from the drab, lit factory on the cover of the record that work and the need for gainful employment is an overriding theme, and then hearing these carefully meted-out, frustration-laced tracks hits you in the gut and gives you a major reality check.

KWC coverKWC is one of those bands I never understood why they didn’t have a bigger following. Come to think of it, I got to know of the band’s music pretty much by chance. A package I received several years ago from the label Perpetual Motion Machine contained with it “Gambling on the Richter Scale,” the band’s second release (their first full-length), and a total revelation to me as a listener. Their sound isn’t easy to pin down, as there’s doom, hardcore, noise rock, post-rock, some metal, and plenty of other elements. Yet none of those things overpowers any other parts, and as time has gone on, they’ve perfected a sound that’s very much become theirs and is instantly recognizable. Now with “Grievances” out on Neurot (CD) and Gilead Media (vinyl), the band has the chance they deserve to align with like-minded drones, who work their weeks away for some relief on the brief weekend. If they’re lucky. Sometimes, work never really ends.

“Your Best Years” strikes you right away, if not from its title then from the presentation. Dry, slow-driving, and jabbing, with vocalist/guitarist Scott Evans howling, “Count off the days, write on the walls, who wants to live this way?” Guitars simmer under the currents (Jon Howell is your other guitarist), with a final burst striking and the song loosening its grip. The title track continues the darkness, with clean guitars flowing into Ian Miller’s thick bass, and Evans layering on the disgust as he prods, “Raise your glass and admit it. You’d draw those bridges, then forget the next minute.” The heaviness kicks in heavier, as does the ill intent and mistrust, as Evans pokes, “We can see your hands move,” another harsh, sobering reminder about who is really in charge. “Backlit” has a nice, drubbing pace, punchy and calculated before guitar wails bustle, strong riffs bubble over, with Jeff Fagundes’ steady drumming pacing the track. “The Grift” is heavier and burlier from the start, with Evans delivering his most forceful vocals on the record, the band thrashing and burning, and then a temporary calm blown apart with the soot spread on the walls.

“White Walls” has a drawn-out feel, but it’s deliberate and meaningful. The song chugs along, as guitar melodies snarl, the bass gets mud thick, and the band keeps pounding away at your will, with Evans howling, “Stay seated! Stay tense! Send a message!” as if he’s trying to rouse a society that has been lulled to sleep. “True Believer” is scathing and blistering, with the vocals coming out like desperate yells, and the music burning and smoking. The guitars spit sparks, while the ball is paced like a steamroller, with the finish triggering anxiety and mental wounds. Closer “Sons and Daughters” is a fitting end, with the guitars sounding more vibrant, a light in the murk that somehow cuts through it all. There’s more of a post-rock edge, with the band pounding rhythmically and Evans admitting, “We never wanted to be so cynical or fatalist.” The feeling is more reflective here, as the track finds its way along, with the band putting the final, trudging touches on a record that understands life a little too intimately.

Kowloon Walled City always have struck a nerve with me because, no matter what they’re writing about, they always find a way to relate their struggles and frustrations to everyday life. You don’t have to be them; you just have to be able to relate. “Grievances” pushes that even further, poking at something that involves all of us and gives everyone some level of stress. The fact that this music is as on-point and aggravated as anything else in their catalog also is a big help in case you don’t feel like playing along. KWC deserve your time, and they’ll pay you back tenfold with musical grit that will stick to your ribs.

For more on the band, go here: http://inthewalledcity.com/

To buy the album, go here: https://neurotrecordings.merchtable.com/?no_redirect

Or here: http://www.erodingwinds.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.neurotrecordings.com/

And here: http://www.gileadmedia.net/

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