THE ANTICS – Running Faster

Hailing from New Jersey, this four piece band borrow influences from Joy Division, The Strokes and a few other post-punk/garage bands to create a debut album that’s unlikely to be very broad in its audience appeal, since their approach to all things post-punk is, at times, rather slapdash.  They appear to have a great bassist; even their guitarist offers a few interesting sounds of an angular nature, but looking beyond that, there’s not always a lot of tightness…and even less in the way of particularly memorable songs.

The album’s best track ‘Overload’ begins with a mechanical beat, joined by a simple bassline and clanging guitars.  By the time vocalist Luke Meisenbacher steps up to the mic, his voice – part unfussy belt, part croon – the band’s love of Joy Division is obvious.  Although many have been influenced by that cult electro-goth band, few – if any – have ever come close to equalling their cold mechanical brilliance, and The Antics are no exception.  Accepting the tune for what it is, though, the bass work is solid in its simplicity with a great tone, while – lurking somewhere in the back – cleaner lead guitar lines add an extra depth to the overall atmosphere [no pun intended].  Also enjoyable, ‘Payday’ has a nice walking bassline coupled with hard rhythmic chords defiantly recalling The Clash’s ‘London Calling’, over which the naturalistic vocal seems well suited.  By the time an organ part joins midway, the arrangement sounds pleasantly full, with the song’s simple swagger being its strongest selling point.

There’s yet another enjoyable bassline at the heart of ‘Take Your Passport’.  Combined with two distinctly different guitar parts – a staccato lead and intermittent crashing chord for rhythm – this is one of the band’s most effective arrangements (again, with hints of Joy Division; maybe a touch of Joy Division obsessives Editors). It almost single handedly proves this band aren’t untalented – they’re just not going to appeal to everyone.

Beyond these two tunes, the band’s output is even more of an acquired taste.  The short ‘Francine’ works around a near discordant one note guitar line tempered by a choppy rhythm and mechanical drum.  While rather angular, it sums up the unrefined elements of The Antics’ style well enough, like an old tune by Wire jammed by The Strokes.  ‘In The Night’, a slightly slower tune which allows Meisenbacher to adopt more of a croon, once again.  Occasionally his unfussy voice brings moments where his wobbling off-key is not always easy listening, eventually marring an otherwise reasonable (though never earth-shattering) tune.  A definite skipper, the quirky ‘Dancing’ sounds like the work of an unfocussed indie-rock band playing in a garage – mixing elements of The Strokes and Frankie & The Heartstrings – with raw results.  The rhythm guitars have some pull, but as with ‘In The Night’, the vocal is rather challenging (particularly so on the chorus) eventually working towards the song’s detriment.

After prolonged listening, the rawness of the vocals and general ragged approach taken on ‘Running Faster’ becomes a little too hard on the ears in places. For a DIY project, though, the album sounds decent enough from a sonic perspective and the bass is often nice and high in the mix. Overall, The Antics have a couple of good ideas (usually their more obvious Joy Division-esque ones) lurking among some largely forgettable material, but while its always easy enough to understand what they’re aiming for, they don’t always leave a lasting impression.

There’s a good EP in here somewhere.

December 2012