Someone needs to help Sean McGuinness, who has currently become lost.
Though he has not been kidnapped, lost in the wilderness nor on a highway in the middle of nowhere, but he is instead lost amongst his band Naives' own instruments. An interesting predicament for a band brimming with intensity that tends to get lost in itself. Maybe I should start off less ambiguously. The EP by Washington, D.C.'s Navies, An Estate has some troubles with execution. You’d never know it by listening to the instrumental “Illegal Flights,” amidst the guitar squalling and reverb, no, the problems arise with the placement of the vocals.
Background. That’s a good way to describe them, and maybe at no fault of their own. Navies are such a noisy outfit, that even in singer Sean McGuinness’ most hectic moments, he’s lost amongst it all. Take the album’s closer, “A Surveyor’s Measure,” in which the band plays with heavy distortions and odd signatures, but their vocalist is nowhere to be found. An exaggeration? Probably, but despite that, the vocals have a heard time being heard against the roar of McGuinness’ own guitar, Ed Brant’s Base, and Mike Petillo’s rolling drum fills. Maybe that was the aim, to have the vocals sound distant and on their own, but I feel like the songs would have a more solid impact if they were just a little more present. The title track, “An Estate,” is able to mask this issue fairly well, but nobody’s going to be questioning which element of the music is at the forefront.
Now let’s drop the qualms about the vocals for just a minute, as the instrumentation here is a real highlight. Thick bass grooves, loud, squalling, dissonant guitars, and hectic drumming, no doubt Naives are technically more than proficient. The closing moments of “Wire Up the Jaws” are raw and jagged, just the way a good post-punk album should be. Each song has plenty of twists and turns to keep things interesting. The band does it all in the seven-and-a-half minute “Split Infinitive,” which starts of in a relatively quiet and repetitive drone until becoming a complete mess of reverb about a quarter of the way through, leading into some funky swaggering that leads McGuinness’ vocals into the mix of things. He’s actually quite impressive on this track, having a far more commanding presence than anywhere else, a shame that it’s rather short lived.
It’s not great; they’ve got a ways to go, but Navies are very technically fit and they possess a sound and swagger they can definitely call their own. If McGuinness can step up the vocals just a bit, and write lyrics with the same confidence that he does right now, there will no doubt be good things to come. He says it himself:
Just when you thought you’ve got it all made, this test will make you much stronger. Just stick your feet in and try not to complain.