London based band Lassiters aren’t doing things by halves on their second release ‘The Charred Remains of Gusso The Clown’. In ten songs and approximately half an hour, the three piece band whip up a brilliant musical storm where the tunes are noisy, and the lyrics sometimes knowingly silly, but there’s always a real focus within their hardcore stance.
Various sampled voices kick off ‘Intro Song’, but it isn’t long before Lassiters’ signature sound bursts from the speakers with a real intent. The opening riffs set up a metal edged hardcore blast, introducing a hefty volume and speed, but its the way the main riff is overlaid with an atonal extra layer of noise that really lifts everything from being typical hardcore. The uncompromising edge hints at a love of Jesus Lizard, NoMeansNo and, on a more “local” level, occasionally makes the Lassiters core sound seem like a brilliant overspill from Leeds band Super Luxury. Factor in a vocal that begins in a shouty manner but quickly elevates to sounding like someone amidst a massive panic attack, and it’s kind of track that you’ll either love, or will have you running in the opposite direction. Either way, Lassiters have achieved their basic goal in a little over two minutes. Similarly, the feedback drenched ‘Am I Right (You’re Not Wrong)’ creates some brilliant noise rock, by tapping into a dirty, scuzzed up riff that the band drive into the ground with a massive lack of subtlety. For hardcore fans, the incredibly distorted, rhythmic melody will introduce itself as an instant classic, and when injected with an even heavier riff going into the chorus, it shows off the trio’s dirty punk with ease. In place of a solo, you’ll find an extra layer of noise, with feedback drifting in and out; a no wave blast that’s brilliantly uncompromising. It wouldn’t work quite as well without a suitable vocal, of course, and as before, there’s a lot about the way that frontman D-Clutter yelps with abandon that lifts everything beyond bog standard hardcore.
A little more interesting musically, but without losing any of the pure anger, the riff at the heart of the delightfully titled ‘Pissed Robert’ lurches back and forth, like an inebriated slab of stoner blues, forced through a noise punk blender. The distortion holds firm, and sounds absolutely superb grinding beneath an almost spoken vocal, whilst a dash of feedback here and there fills any of the cracks with extra anger. This would be enough to carry a great track, but Lassiters have other ideas. First, they shift the mood to classic hardcore, filling several bars with speed driven intents that really put drummer J-Walk in the driving seat, before changing things up again to indulge in some brilliantly noisy punk ‘n’ roll, which allows for some much more pointed guitar work and a pleasingly ugly solo. Eventually sliding back into the original lolloping riff, it feels like a cycle of noise that hangs together purely out of a stubborn fury, but at the same time, it’s one of the album’s definite highlights.
The title cut isn’t shy in sharing a pleasingly grindy bass noise, with J-Cloth’s playing often providing the heart of the number. After a couple of bars, it can be hard to bend your ears past a really sharp guitar and wall of distortion but, despite this, the track has a great feel. The combo of razor-edged, atonal riffs and crashing drums really reinforces the love for Jesus Lizard, and in terms of style, D-C’s vocals are especially on point. Without losing any anger, ‘Perma Screw’ does a top job of applying an angry art-punk quality to some ferocious hardcore when the band alternates between speed driven chops and an almost swooning guitar melody, with mid-tempo riffs wavering above a hard drum. The push and pull between the styles is always interesting, even if the end result feels more about the marriage of two abrasive moods rather than an obvious song, whilst ‘Scorned Thrice’ melds hardcore traditions with the kind of crushing sound that sat at the heart of Orange 9mm’s ‘Driver Not Included’. The influences are always familiar, but it doesn’t make the outcome any less impressive.
Showing off the band’s ugliest side, ‘Shit Phone’ places absolutely unhinged vocals atop four minutes of relentless grinding. Those who remember US art/hardcore noise makers Craw might experience sweaty flashbacks at first, but following a minute or so’s worth of really confrontational noise, listeners will eventually be rewarded with several bars of tight hardcore punk, showing off all three musicians in a more user-friendly way. That’s not to say that melody comes first – even in hardcore terms, Lassiters appear to love the more abrasive approach – but the riffs are brilliantly played. Moving back into the original grind, D-C’s guitar sound has the subtlety of a truck. If anything makes a lasting impression here, for better or worse, it’ll be that; he very clearly knows how to create something fierce from a simple, distorted palate. ‘2 Baked Potatoes’, meanwhile, fleshes out an already short album with a relentless workout where the punk ‘n’ roll of Zeke is tempered with a little more melody, allowing for great riffs throughout. The verse showcases a typically manic voice to compliment another angry riff, but the chorus – drowning in distortion and almost industrial sounding guitar lines – captures more great noise, just in case this track feels a little too commercial, somehow. ‘Gusso’ features a few more interesting arrangements, but in terms of pure riff-based enjoyment and the sound of a band cutting loose, this is the best track by far.
At the album’s tail end, ‘This Is Your Life’ serves up some great noise-punk, driven by a distorted guitar. Its spiky approach guarantees a great riff, and although it recycles some of the album’s previous moods, the arrangement supplies more enjoyable punk fare. If anything will raise a smile, though – and particularly with older listeners – it’s the decision to deliver the title via a vocal melody that comes dangerously close to the tune of the old TV show’s brassy fanfare. It just adds a great, vaguely humorous dimension to an already enjoyable number, showing of Lassiters’ more irreverent side with ease. In closing, the lengthy ‘Garden Lizard’ teases with some pure sludge, when a grinding bass lumbers behind more feedback and a massively swampy guitar. It’s just a ruse, though, as the number veers off into a melody that sounds like an art rock take on old school post punk, with a tsunami of distortion to add to the intensity. With a lot of slower riffs in hand, it’s possible to hear traces of stoner rock once more, although there’s little here that genre fans would enjoy, since anything vaguely melodic is sidelined by a gang vocal that appears to take influence from the second wave of UK punk. It’s angry and direct, and enjoyable to a point, but the track’s coda is where the best riffs can be found. Bassist J-Cloth explores a really taut bottom end to share a superb sound, before the whole band launches themselves into a really tight punk/fuzz groove, almost as if channelling early Tad records. In many ways, this last blast shows how intricate they can be, even if they often choose to convey a more chaotic approach. Whichever way you approach this track, it’s superb.
Falling between the noise rock of Jesus Lizard and angry punk sounds of early 80s hardcore, Lassiters’ sound is fairly uncompromising, occasionally on the side of deliberately obtuse, but for listeners with a love of noisy art punk, ‘Gusso’ should deliver some particularly abrasive fun. It’s worth checking out this release for ‘This Is Your Life’, ‘Garden Lizard’ and ‘2 Baked Potatoes’, but in all honesty, if you can make it past the first track and have already decided that the Lassiters noise machine is for you, there are no weak links here. In terms of DIY noise, ‘…Gusso The Clown’ is a recommended addition to your growing digital collection of punk-oriented oddities.