Submission Hold - What Holds Back The Elephant (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Submission Hold

What Holds Back The Elephant (2004)

G7 Welcoming Committee

What Holds Back The Elephant may be one of the most intelligent, poetic and genuinely passionate records of the year, but that does that make it a fun listen?

Submission Hold defies categorization. I've read every clumsy attempt from "agit-punk" to "avant-folk" and "progressive-crust" even "post-genre" and I can't say one is more correct than any of the others. Submission Hold share a spiritual connection with Crass in that the band is deadly serious and living their politics. All the disjointed rhythms and angular guitar play here is similar to some of Fugazi's more chaotic moments. Comparisons to Dutch anarcho-punks The Ex and early Patti Smith abound. It puts this in a pretty exclusive club of artistically conscious and politically unyielding bands.

All these influences and contemporaries say two things about the record. Firstly this will most definitely appeal to the activist segment of the punk left who felt the pre-election anti-Bush movement was too trendy and mainstream. Those of you bitter at the fact that otherwise politically silent pop-punk bands were suddenly claiming awareness, take note: This is as real and relevant as it gets. The second thing is that this record isn't for everyone. It's heavy with radical applications of both political opinion and unconventional musicianship. What Holds Back The Elephant is far too immediate and arty for casual listening.

Jen Throwup's vocals range from sorrowful mantras (as in the eco-feminist "Dirt") to frenzied punk shouting (the album opening "Final Coup of the Last Millennium") to leftist coffeehouse folk (the foreboding "Woddenhead"). She can yell with the wild-eyed conviction of a street preacher but has an indescribable sense of unyielding conviction in her quieter moments. The band itself is improvisational yet still tight. Despite the complexity of some of the work a creative interplay of sound persists; there's never a sense that one player has broken off into their solo. Stephen Flach (guitar) Andy Healey (bass) and Kenton Loewen (drums) and a host of guests provide a musical backing that's every bit as varied and eclectic as Jen's vocal delivery.

Submission Hold has delivered provocative and challenging music for more than a decade, and What Holds Back The Elephant is no exception. This may be too far on the fringe musically or thematically for some, but I'd recommend everyone find that out on their own. To those that this passes over, it'll be nothing more than a curiosity, however if this truly resonates with you I suspect the connection will be as deep and profound as the music itself.


Final Coup of the Last Millennium (MP3 / RealAudio)
Woodenhead (MP3 / RealAudio)