Spokenest is what happens when two-thirds of the band God Equals Genocide get hitched and decide to use money received as a wedding gift to record and release nine songs. The two-thirds would be drummer/vocalist Adrian Tenney and guitarist/vocalist Daryl Gussin, and the union they have entered in their personal lives is replicated on this 12-inch release, although it's anything but a smooth listen given the distinct edginess that comes through the speakers when listening to it, so one can only hope that the marriage is more harmonious than the recorded tracks!
Both God Equals Genocide and Spokenest are heavy on the lo-fi sound; the former certainly had more moments of melody and tuneage, but with Spokenest, Tenney and Gussin come out fighting with added dissonance and deliver a simple attack of six strings, drums and vocals that is highly invigorating and effective. Opening track "Where?" sets the blueprint for what is to follow, with a jerky, edgy guitar and loose drumming, topped with the vocals of one of, or both members of the duo.
Duos seem to be everywhere at the moment, adding their own mark on the wider punk genre. Some work well and others fall a bit short in their efforts. Here Spokenest delives what can only be described as a visceral assault on the aural capabilities of the listener. It's understandable that some might find the approach lacking in hooks, but surely punk rock has not always been about making art easy or easily accessible? It's not some sort of 'better than thou' approach, more a case of it being true and from the heart, with an absence of any desire to make it big and be rewarded with cash and fame. Hence, the more honest abrasiveness of what Spokenest have conjured up ensures that the result doesn't feel forced or calculated, and as such manages to have more of an impact.
The two vocal styles are quite different with Tenney providing a slightly fuzzy, (a studio effect as opposed to a natural state!) high-pitched approach, and Gussin with more of a flat and sometimes atonal delivery. Fortunately, these two differing styles do work quite well together and my favourite parts of the album are when they sing together, each providing a counterpoint to the other.
The lyrics to the whole album are fairly brief but "Dinner" really does hint at some disharmony going on somewhere, whether that's at arm's length to the duo or not, they certainly paint an ugly picture:
'I'm not gonna make your dinner,
And I don't give a fuck about your dessert,
Who calls the shots?,
However, to offer up a more positive vein, the final track "People" has both Gussin and Tenney trading lines, in an almost Exene Cervenka / John Doe call and response kind of way, as follows:
'Good people become bad people,
But bad people become good people too,
And that's why I still got hope for you,
And that's why I got my eye on you.'
There you have it, punk rock from the heart and mind, no ulterior motive other than to do something that a) the participants (and hopefully the recipients, too) enjoy and b) do it without much of a fuss. On those levels, Spokenest have succeeded.
This is a record worthy of tracking down either in its physical format or via Bandcamp, where you have the chance to repay the couple for investing their wedding gift so wisely! I reviewed it from a download but will be ordering a physical copy as soon as they are available here in the UK.