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During ‘New Fast’, Guider’s penultimate track, a glance at your watch reveals you’re only running at a somewhat premature 15 minutes. Just as you’re scanning the sleeve for the caveat marked 'EP', the band suddenly unleash ‘Revisiting’; a sixteen-minute grinding behemoth, let loose onto your ears and central nervous system. And all is well with the world again. Punching the clock at just over thirty minutes, Disappears' second record provides sterling evidence that short and sharp can sometimes be the best way forward. (Prog excepted; I think it’s still technically illegal to release anything under an hour if you want to be considered a bona-fide prog outfit).
Hailing from Chicago, Disappears strike a mutually agreeable but ill-trusting accord between US and UK post-punk noise tapestries. The corner stones are obviously laid with a mutual love of The Velvet Underground, PiL , Spacemen 3 and Sonic Youth (indeed, Sonic Youth’s drummer Steve Shelley has been recently augmenting their live line-up) but Disappears manage to interweave these influences through their layers so that they’re more of a nod to, rather than a full embrace of them. There are echoes of Lydon in singer Brian Case’s angry yap-and-rap delivery, and flirtations with Jah Wobble’s elastic basslines. But the music answers back with a growl from the weird, fucked up garages of Alternative America. You can never quite throw your net over Disappears. They change their shape and form too swiftly to be effectively pinned down.
Opener ‘Superstition’ is a swift, gratifying blast of kinetic energy, a musical knee-trembler in the alleyway. Case’s best Lydon impersonation is on full display on a study in understated threat that comprises ‘Not Romantic’. It is here that the album’s only major flaw becomes apparent. There is so much dirt and reverb swamping the record that it becomes difficult to appreciate its inner workings. At times, it feels like you are listening through a blackout curtain; you can appreciate the talent on display but somehow, you feel you are missing out on the full promise.
‘Halo’ however, is magnificent. Again, the bass takes the lead, carving a pulsing, insistent trajectory above clashing drum patterns while Case rants and raves over the top, the track unfurling as wonderful waves of distorted guitar wash over you. Brilliantly simple and wonderfully executed, it’s arguably the album’s defining moment. The following duo of ‘Guider’ and ‘New Fast’ are in a similar vein: heavily distorted and bass-driven explorations of noise-pop and post-punk with vocals seemingly bubbling up from the depths. They don’t resound as powerfully as the album’s earlier tracks but remain brief and beguiling enough to entertain, though the heavy distortion and reverb again takes a significant percentage of impact away from the songs. And then there is the aforementioned dance-inflected menace of ‘Revisited’: rising out of the smoke and slowly overwhelming you. If anything, you wish that they’d push further into the darkness and do something completely mental to make your jaw drop rather than simply open (the last five minutes don’t really progress anywhere). Nevertheless, it’s difficult not to be impressed with the scale of their ambition.
Guider is an intriguing, viscerally stirring study in contemporary post-punk that holds attention like a fox in a headlight beam. It is odd therefore, to say that the record’s only major flaw is that in maintaining a lo-fi cloud of murk and mystery around the recordings, the true luminosity of their creation never shines through as gloriously as it otherwise might. Yes; I know that there’s a certain DIY ethic involved in this genre (the press release proudly claims that they 'recorded over the same reels of tape that they used for their first album') and I’m not sure if Disappears would ever want to be a mainstream act but it’s unquestionable that their music has the potential to reach out well beyond their current admirers. Their fanbase will probably vehemently disagree with me and that’s fine, but a little spit and polish on the mixing console could bring this band to the ears of many people longing for a welcome and delightful punch to the musical solar plexus. They haven’t quite managed to equal their heroes yet, but judging from the wilful ambition and focus shown here, it might not be too long before they begin to paint their masterpiece.