I’m a sucker for fluctuations in volume. Loud-quiet-loud-quiet-loud: I am there. But most bands bring little nuance or invention to this effect: usually just some fingerpicking and soft crooning juxtaposed against a distortion pedal and screaming. Then there are Taxidermists.
Honesty Box, the latest release by the Western Mass band, is a massive fit of downtuned guitars, sporadic drumming, and jacked-up song structure. Their music reminds me of Sonic Youth: cacophonous weirdness that somehow manages to be catchy. Except Sonic Youth used four people to create all that noise, and the Taxidermists pull it off with just two. (The band members are Salvadore McNamara and Cooper B Handy. The album was released on Telegraph Harp.)
Honesty Box opens with a perfect introduction. “Be 1” is an explosive combination of plucky cleans and crumbling dirties. Static buzz layers over sporadic drumming and soft, spoken vocals. An album that could easily be construed as pure noise rock is shot through with surprisingly catchy guitar riffs. The bright, punchy sliding at the start of “Tight Rope” wouldn’t be out of place at a beach party.
But it’s the wild instability, the fluid fluctuations between mind-melting volume and intimate sing-song, that really pleasure my ears. Listening to the closing track, “Rel Young,” I almost thought my speaker had cut out. And Taxidermists demonstrate some genuine classic rock guitar chops here. The solo on “Big Enough for The Truth” is nothing short of rad, as I’m sure that Wayne and Garth would agree.
With the disorienting change-ups of volume and intensity, the vocals remain largely mellow. That’s another similarity with Sonic Youth, although I’d argue these guys do it better than Thurston Moore.
Taxidermists play madly with traditional song structure, turning every song into an experiment. One second you’re being pummeled by noise, the next you want to dance. This is a band named for people who stuff dead things. But in its unpredictability and audacity, their music is very much alive.