EndAnd - Mechanics & Energetics of Stilt-Running
Release Date: June 25, 2013
Record Label: Self-Released
There’s a moment at the top of Mechanics & Energetics of Stilt-Running, the latest album from Brooklyn-based punk rock act EndAnd, where it almost feels like you’re listening to “Pictures of You” from the Cure’s seminal 1989 masterpiece, Disintegration. Something about the way the guitars and bass meld during that opening track—titled “At Fault’s End”—make it sound like a B-side from the world’s greatest goth-rock act. And then, just moments later, the illusion is shattered. EndAnd aren’t trying to craft the kind of melodically moody music that the Cure have traded in for so long; no, they’re here to play up the mantra of 21st century, garage-bound noise-rock (with a heavy emphasis on the noise). Over the course of 11 tracks and 21 kinetic minutes, Mechanics & Energetics of Stilt-Running refuses to slow down. The music, as well as the thematic elements of the songs, is unapologetic in its intensity, weaving together furious tales of broken relationships, death and loss, disease and pain, and of an illegal immigrant just looking for his piece of the American Dream. Since many of the songs offer autobiographical musings from singer/screamer/guitarist Daniel Fern, the album has a reason for its visceral, blistering energy.
I’ll say up front that this music doesn’t quite fall into my natural wheelhouse. This may be a website called AbsolutePunk.net, but I’ve always liked punk records with a strong dose of pop more than I’ve enjoyed albums from whiplash noise rock groups like EndAnd. With that said, the musicianship displayed on this record is really quite impressive, and I can imagine these guys making an album that people in this scene would really adore if they could just build up a solid recording and producing budget. As is, much of Mechanics & Energetics of Stilt-Running sounds like it was recorded in a garage, and while that aesthetic adds a kind of claustrophobic intensity to the album's rapidfire drum-fills (courtesy of band MVP, Mike Morales) or the tumbling grooves on songs like “The Detach” (where bassist Bill Fitzgerald seems to be doing his best impression of early ‘90s Green Day), it also robs the music of the kind of dynamic contrast that could have made it something notable.
There’s a certain charm and balladic beauty of the guitar parts that open songs like “The Hypocrite Mourns” or album closer “Strong,” but those promising intros quickly give way to the same kind of bellowed, volcanic speed-rock sound that seems to be EndAnd’s only MO. And I realize that this brand of punk rock is supposed to be fast and loud and immediate, but for an album with such emotional subject material, I don’t think the consistently pummeling nature of the music works. When Fern has gone on record to describe the inspiration for the album, he’s almost made it sound like Mechanics & Energetics was supposed to be this big, epic, layered conceptual piece, but what we actually get is over so quickly that none of it feels hard-hitting. The bandcamp page calls the album an LP, but to be honest, it feels considerably more like an EP with short songs and interludes.
You can do a punk album that says a lot and goes a lot of different places musically—Titus Andronicus proved that a few years back with their masterful work on The Monitor. And hell, even some of the more experimental music I’ve reviewed lately, stuff from bands like Liquid Casing and The Gabriel Construct, has balanced its loud, intense, fireball moments with snatches of quieter emotional nuance. That, along with more individual showcase of musical players, was what I wanted to hear from Mechanics & Energetics of Stilt-Running, and the lack of such diversity is ultimately what leaves the album ringing hollow for me, despite the promise of its first few tracks.