Anyone vaguely familiar with my tastes will know that there is one band that means the most to me. True, I worship the ground the Dismemberment Plan walks upon, and would be more than happy than to be the willing recipient of some sort of abuse from Les Savy Fav's frontman Tim Harrington, but the fact remains, were it not for one very special band, they would mean nothing to me. This one very special band, if you couldn't tell from the very begining, is Q And Not U.
Flashback: Freshman year of high school, 2001. At the time, I was a gawky, awkward kid who loved punk/indie rock but just couldn't find a scene to call my own. I remember trooling Pheer.com, looking at all the shows that I knew my parents would never let me go to. I remember thinking 'One day. One day I'm going to go to a show and see bands that I want to see.' During my constant parusal of the Pheer listings, one band that would constantly pop out from the show listings was Q And Not U. 'Hmm,' I remember thinking, 'that is a really wierd band name. I wonder what they sound like.' This being the glory days of Napster, you could find anything on there. In fact, in an odd twist of irony, my father had taken to downloading entire Steely Dan and Style Council records. So I typed in the name, and got a couple hits back. I downloaded a few songs, went to get something to drink, and came back.
What came out of the speakers suddenly enthralled me. Disjointed guitar chords, bashed out drumming, and a singer who kept shouting something about "the first time, the second time" and getting some party started took me completely off guard. Three minutes and seven seconds later, I was hooked. I downloaded and burned the rest of the album that night and didn't stop listening to it for the next week. Suddenly, Sonic Youth and The Pixies, previous favorites of mine, sounded old and tired. It was as if Q And Not U came in and torched the dusty cabinet that was my brain; kicking former favorites out and staging a full on funk-punk-freakout in my head. That spring, I got to see them live, at the now demolished Wilson Center. I saw them later again that year at Fort Reno. Shortly thereafter, bassist Matt Borlick left.
So it was with no small amount of trepidation that I came into listening to the new Q And Not U LP. People asked me "Is it like "No Kill"?" Well, as the title states, it is different. And no, it isn't. It doesn't even come close to taking on the sound of their stellar debut. Instead, it burns that blue print to the ground and builds from the bottom up. "Different Damage" opens with with 'Soft Pyramids', a song that is slightly rearranged from the original which appeared on their "On Play Patterns" single. Taking on a more clearly defined sentiment, the song speaks of the ecological plight of the world with Chris Richards singing "how can we ask for a blanket and a habitat?" After this, the band delves back into the lyrical ambiguity that they seem to be known for. The rest of the album seems to alternate between open ended disco-punk jams, like 'No Damage Nocturne', 'Air Conditions', and 'This Are Flashes' and the more straight foward funk-punk of yore on tracks like 'So Many Animal Calls' and 'Everybody Ruins'. However, while Q And Not U tow the line of my first reaction (sophmore slump, if you wanted to know), they still prove capable of writing incredibly cathy songs that you will find yourself humming for days. The incendiary 'Black Plastic Bags' recalls the catchy, hyper sound of "No Kill, No Beep Beep" while 'Recreation Myth' floats away on dub-like bass and Gang of Four-esque guitar chords. The entire album is anchored throughout by John Davis's intricate, yet strong drumming, while Chris Richards and Harris Khlar alternate vocals on songs. Chris Richards, in addition to singing and guitar duties, takes up the bass as well, and his busy, dub bass lines provide a perfect contrast to Harris Khlars searing guitar work.
Alot of people will probably have the same reaction upon listening that I first had. "What the fuck are you DOING?!?!?!" True, the first time you listen to it, it won't make any sense. It's not as immediate as their previous release, "No Kill, No Beep Beep". However, let it play through, let it sit on your turntable awhile, let it soak through your head, and I think you'll find that this album is truly great. While "No Kill, No Beep Beep" may have announced their arrival, "Different Damage" establishes the bands true sound; one that owes equal amounts to Chic and Gang of Four as it does to Fugazi and Jawbox, and one that will hopefully (as it once did for me) insipre a whole new set of kids to discover a scene and a sound.
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