ut there is hope for the traditional lineup of hardcore bands- don’t get me wrong. Just look at J.R Ewing. Two guitars. A bass. Drums. A vocalist. 13 songs that are over in little more than half an hour. It’s all here. The brilliance and intensity of a band on a mission to pulverize eardrums through the tropes of traditional hardcore, but different somehow. Perhaps it’s more melody? Or the fact that they’re Norwegian? Who knows? And more importantly, when the music is this good, who cares?
It starts with the blasting menace of “Repetition is Failure,” which features a stuttered riff and rolling drums that lead into a energetic opening masterpiece. The song alternates between two main themes, gently allowing them to coalesce into a mixture that ends the song with a riff that could not have been guessed at in the opening song’s first seconds. So far, so good.
“Laughing with Daggers” is another of the major highlights on the record. The song has a certain rocking quality to it, moving back and forth, rather than pushing forward full bore. Moving between the riffs and the crests of each wave of distorted guitar, the singer screams unabashedly. There is going to be no hedging here- and after the bridge it becomes clear that the group has made up their mind to only push forward, providing blasts of five seconds of pure noise until the song is launched into again at full speed. It is a sublime moment and perhaps the finest song on the record.
The album continues in this vein punching out riff after riff that sound eminently familiar, but just different enough to maintain the varied quality that is inherent in almost any successful record. And each song uses this riffs not as something to run into the ground, but as jumping off points for musical waters uncharted. They start in one place, but the end of the song, they’ve moved, however slightly, to somewhere different- moving both the riff and the listener to a place far greater than where the blandness of most hardcore ends up.
It should be no surprise, then, that this band has ended up on GSL. The label has proven itself time and time again as unafraid to move out of their niche markets to branch out into something more interesting and innovative. With JR Ewing, the label has taken a chance on a group of Scandinavians pushing something far more complex and interesting than the pop hooks of the Hives. Because while the Hives may be the self proclaimed greatest band on the face of the Earth, JR Ewing is quickly becoming the more interesting band- and for that I think we can all be grateful.