It wasn't such a long time ago that almost any Seattle-based band could write their own cheques at the flick of an amplifier; that upstarts from the city's punk underbelly found fleeting fame in the wake of a breakthrough collective. True, said time is now buried under the sands of so many been-and-gone scenes, but the city remains a vibrant hotbed of talent - immediately recent years have given birth to fantastic records from Pretty Girls Make Graves, Cobra High, These Arms Are Snakes and many more, and now A Frames, six-legged and three-headed purveyors of the scuzziest slacker rock around, have graced the world with their Sub Pop debut, their third in all.
Black Forest is the sound of 1992 fast-forwarded to the present via an accidental diversion through the burnt-out landscapes of the ever encroaching future. Guitars fuzz and fizz whilst drumbeats come on in military fashion, regimented and rigid. Plaid shirts may have been thrown out with the teenage tantrums and rotting VHS copies of Singles, but grunge's ghost lingers provocatively over much of this 14-tracker. It's there, sighing heavily, sucking on fume-fogged air throughout the sludgy 'Eva Braun'; it wheezes and splurges phlegm in the direction of the wonderfully Jesus Lizard-meets-Kraftwerk (trust me) 'Quantum Mechanic'. But grunge cannot permeate every pore of this score to tearaway abandonment: 'Experiment' is a pulsing and screeching trash-rock rollercoaster ride, the deadpan vocals clashing violently with music that dares to deviate from the rails only to be whipped back into line time after time.
The rumbling bass of 'Death Train' will prove a point of access to newcomers, as will the comparatively calm 'Galena' and the almost Shellac in style 'Negative', but it's Black Forest's moments of utter unhinged-ness that keep the thirstiest of listeners coming back. A simple three-piece outfit has rarely crafted an album with such obvious longevity; indeed, one might make a comparison to the most initially inaccessible but ultimately most rewarding effort from the most famous crossover Seattle act of all time. But that'd be stupid and crass, right? Fuck it - let's flick those amps and see what wicked things come this way...
8Mike Diver's Score