Lewd Acts - Black Eye Blues (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Lewd Acts

Black Eye Blues (2009)


Lewd Acts have stepped up their game with Black Eye Blues, a full-length full of dirty, grimey hardcore that manages to provide both a searing, original intensity and artistic statement all at once. Black Eye Blues speaks to its mish-mash of various influences and coalesces them into unifying themes and sounds, but that tends to be a gravelly, vaguely metallic hardcore sound that isn't so much menacing as it is a beautifully destructive, surprisingly scant 29 minutes.

A lot of the narratives are told in a seemingly personal, storytelling form that often flows seamlessly from one song to the next -- it does so with the first two tracks, anyway, and it lends a bleaker outlook to an already grueling album. "I was born with soapbox shoes, / and raised on morals that I chose to lose," is the very first couplet of the album, after all. Later, the narrator builds an intricate metaphor in the self-explanatory, pounding and raw "My Father Was a Locomotive."

Though based in California, the band must share a member with Brooklyn's Spanish Bombs, since the vocals occasionally sound exactly like SB's lead singer (like the seriously dynamic parts in "Young Lovers, Old Livers") and there's no guest credited in the liner notes. Additionally, the band share SB's penchant for dark, slightly experimental textures that add character and dynamism to the songs. But there's shades of a wide variety of hardcore-leaning bands in these tracks, similarities ranging from Shipwreck to Neurosis, with that rumbling, dirge-y recording that could only be captured in gravelly genius form by Kurt Ballou.

"Wide Black Eyes" is the "No Heroes" of the album, a charging, relentless 1:28 with a raspy, rusted hook carrying it through. That's a common slant for the album, but it works wonderfully, where "I Don't Need You" weaves in a head-bobbing bassline in its first minute before the song abruptly halts to a slower tempo at said minute's end. Taking it "easier" is the other mode of operation for Lewd Acts, as shown by bluesy, blistered refrains in the minimal "Who Knew the West Coast Could Be So Cold?", mixing up the momentum, while the nearly five-minute "Penmanship Sailed" is a fuller-bodied, brooding bout of desperation with a percussion-heavy fit in its last minute.

Thematic, accomplished, creative and ugly, Black Eye Blues is a rather strong long-player debut, and possibly the most complete and realized hardcore album you'll hear all year.

Wide Black Eyes
Young Lovers, Old Livers