by Chad Jewett
If Anything, the debut full-length from Canadian punk quartet Greys was one of the best albums of last year, and has only proved itself more enduring as the months have passed. Sporting a brusque, muscular version of post-hardcore that drew on both the weird, wiry energy of Drive Like Jehu and the outsized wallop of Jawbox – and generally even more witheringly snarled than either – the LP was an energized exercise in a sound that seems to be otherwise slowly fading away. While METZ and Girl Band have both released good-to-great full-lengths this year that largely work through the same angled heft that defined “Chick Singer” and “Cold Soak”, those records also serve to underline the subtle ways in which Greys truly excelled by turning a certain version of hardcore into three minute pop songs that just so happened to be bluntly acidic. Indeed, that might be why If Anything remains so enthralling after 18 months – at this point, the record is just about singular.
Repulsion, a three-song 7” and the band’s first release since that excellent full-length, finds the quartet stretching out and noticeably deconstructing their previously sturdy garage-punk engine. The EP’s cover, a black-and-white image of a modernist room full of clean lines and cubist angles, reminds you of something that might grace a late-70s Wire LP, and the notion fits the approach: like, say, Chairs Missing, this is punk music experimenting with space and ambience. It means that while opener “The Voyeur” actually doubles down on the snotty skate-core edges of If Anything, all power-chord minimalism and In Utero quiet-loud punches, “I’d Hate To Be An Actor” slows down and saves room for the exaggerated sizzle of its ringing cymbals, the pachyderm trod of its woozy chords, and a slow-dissolve feedback that fogs over the song’s back end like humidity.
The same goes for the galloping “Nothing Means Anything” (an archetypal Greys title as definitive for the band as lines like “I used to have more interesting things to say / But it’s all so boring), which feels even faster after the purposefully sludgy “I’d Hate To Be An Actor”, but which also plays with an especially impressionistic chorus mix wherein harmonies hang in a surprisingly clean swath over an otherwise distorted haze. It makes for an interesting four-minute sprint – one that comes in with the resolute sharpness of Hot Snakes and exits in a diffuse, noisy swirl. That sense of art-punk eclipse – bright urgent beginnings that cross some meridian into almost painterly studio fuzz – is more or less the template for Repulsion, an absorbing transitional document from one of post-hardcore’s most compelling entities.