I was excited to see that Empty Records was releasing some new shit and the samples I had heard from Snitches Get Stitches sounded promising. I remember this label fondly as they were responsible for releasing all the great records from Sicko, and they were an important band to my little South King County punk rock upbringing. The good news is that Empty has another hit on their hands, and even better news to some is that they sound nothing like Sicko!
One of the first things I read about these guys described them as LA math meets NYC art-rock. Talk about a turnoff! Shit, they may as well have added terms like white power, Omaha, screamo, and worst of all: straight edge. But I wouldn't be writing this review if there was any LA math or NYC art rock involved, so breathe easy; there is none. That description is all-too-fitting for another Seattle band: the Blood Brothers. Don't get me wrong, the Blood Brothers are cool and all, with their haircuts inspired by Juventus circa '02, and their home-made purses and handbags sold at the merch table (which I have purchased, thank you). Snitches are not anywhere near as challenging as BB; their brand of rock was surprisingly accessible, melodic, and straightforward. These two bands are like sushi, ya dig. The Blood Brothers are that weird thing that expert sushi eaters insist upon eating even though there's no big payoff, whereas Snitches Get Stitches are your tasty California Roll but delivered with some serious Wasabi for that added sinus-clearing punch. Oh, there'll be more bad analogies. Another thing I read compared them to fellow Washingtonians Federation X, but that was also thrown right out the window upon the first listen. Sure, maybe I can't write a record review, but look at all misinformation I'm up against! What you need to know is that these guys straddle the sub-genres and blend traditional indie rock with punk and hardcore. For a three-piece they have a lot going on; it's noisy rock with ample vocal trade-offs and lots of feedback, but it's never sloppy. It's a very aggressive record that harkens back to the days when Amphetamine Reptile was a flourishing label. Hot damn, anyone remember AmRep? That was before the trite and tired screaming vocal styles found among every hair band in the scene today. Sigh…
I'm especially hesitant to liken Snitches to other bands because I'm treading in some unfamiliar musical waters here. But lack of knowledge on any subject has never really silenced my opinion before, so fuck it! I think it's safe to say they're heavily influenced by the Northwest – bands like Unwound and Fitz Of Depression for example – but Hot Snakes may be the most contemporary act to draw comparisons to. And while I'm name-checking every band possible because I don't have the powers of articulation to explain what this record sounds like, inhale, I should throw in that my girlfriend thinks they sound like Cursive. Is this helping at all? Let's move on.
The production is just right for these dudes, handled by DIY legend Conrad Uno. This is a band that sounds both dirty and furious and that has been captured seamlessly without compromising sonic quality. Put simply, it just sounds right. In addition, there are some wacky samples between a couple songs that really accentuate the transitions and bring some ambiance to the record…okay, that was a pretty fruity sentence, but honestly, the production also offers some neat bells and whistles that are an added highlight of the overall package. Kudos to Conrad for his work here.
Well, it's not all candy and nuts. I was a bit disappointed with the artwork because it was like a two-panel booklet with no lyrics. In this day and age, bands need to do a better job of providing some value with their product, and skimping on the content is a bummer from a fan's point of view. It's worsened because I really feel like Snitches probably have a very provocative message, especially with hilarious song titles like "Release The Kraken" and "Ninja Please." Aside from the fact that there's already a glut of (shitty) bands out there, it's easy enough to download records, and you can't blame people if you don't make much of an effort. My point is, if you were to get this on iTunes, you wouldn't be missing out on any kick-ass packaging.
But we can't end on that note, especially considering this is my favorite new record and it'll likely make my year's best list. It's dangerous yet intelligent rock, and made more refreshing because it sits so awkwardly among the current musical trends. I look forward to seeing them live in some shitty SF club, and I know when I do there won't be a single Taking Back Sunday shirt in sight. Sweet, sweet sanctuary.
Non-believers should begin by checking out songs like "Koala Stars" or "I've Got A Thing For Violets."
Snitches Get Stitches - Koala Stars
Snitches Get Stitches - Ninja, Please.