Open City - Open City (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Open City

Open City (2017)


Open City has directly downplayed their supergroup aspect. Their official promo shot is merely the cover of their album. They actively avoided PR channels during their live debut and subsequent string of shows. Even the jacket of their self-titled LP only lists the members’ names in tiny font.

But, facts is facts. This is a supergroup. You’ve got Rachel Rubino (Bridge and Tunnel) on vocals, Dan Yemin (Paint it Black, Kid Dynamite, Lifetime) on guitar, Andy Nelson (Paint it Black, Ceremony) on bass, and Chris Wilson (Ted Leo) on drums. As far as modern punk and hardcore go, those are some serious bonafides.

Yet, perhaps most daringly, the band has made a clear effort to coalesce in lieu of jamming all their styles together. It’s a fitting time to think of another excellent supergroup, the Traveling Wilburys. In that group, as in-synch as they were, you definitely could pick out Dylan’s lyrics, Jeff Lynne’s melodies, Tom Petty’s everyman voice, George Harrison’s cosmic consciousness, and that booming Roy Orbison tone.

Not so with Open City. The band has coagulated to form their own unique thing, rather than a collection of their parts. Rubino herself turns in one of her hardest and sharpest performances to date. On “Black Veils” she flips from a sort of Wire post-punk melody to a Patti Smith cadence all while describing a melancholic regret. Then, on “Hell Hath No Fury,” Rubino is in full attack mode as cleverly warps the famous line: “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned? You’re goddam right!”

Meanwhile, punk’s own Glimmer Twins, Yemin and Nelson, lock together unlike before. The expectation is that the pair will just kick out Paint It Black part 2- all jagged, slamming hardcore. There is some of that here, but the pair are equally interested in subverting expectations ala off-kilter and weighted rhythms reminiscent of more complex Fugazi pieces, and on “Brother, I’m Going Nowhere,” as they shift from climbing pierce to downward striking stomp, there’s a delicious bit of Ink and Dagger climbing up from the depths. All of this is to say that the pair are finding more and more complex strategies and modes in their pairing, but deftly, they’re able to keep the nasty grit and slash in the music.

Chris Wilson, too , evolves. He’s smacking down harder here than on Pharmacists records and leans more towards heavy metal complexity than in his band Hound. In deed, Wilson flips the script so often, it seems that the other three band members are building their unusual approach around this shifting skeleton, rather than using Wilson as a timekeeper or beat machine.

And this is where Open City succeeds. Instead of pointing out their differences on this record through showboating, the four members have found a common ground and then built a strategy of growth off of that. It doesn’t hurt that Rubino has such biting lyrics erupting from her shredded throat. The members of Open City might be hiding behind their name to avoid having their names overshadow the music, but let’s be honest- it would be tough to overshadow this music to begin with.