he Locust have never made an album that is inherently listenable; that is, a record one frequently returns to for lasting quality and informed songwriting. They have perpetually survived within the ephemeral. Even when their compositions veer towards the complex puzzles of the Zappa/Zorn/Patton universe, they are performed as mainline mirco-blasts of noise and busted circuitry, at tempos that belie their technical dexterity, and in the guise of oddball sci-fi apocalyptic propaganda slogans (titles like “One Manometer Away from Mutually Assured Relocation” usually take longer to read than to listen to). Plague Soundtracks, their last effort, was a dadaist feast of hardcore punk, one punishing trick repeated twenty-three times over the course of twenty minutes. Extremely cathartic music, sure, but not something you sit around with on a Sunday morning years down the road or in polite company on a Friday night.
It’s been four years between that album’s release and their latest for Epitaph, New Erections. In the of-the-moment paradigm they have founded for themselves, that feels like an eternity. If you’d expect them to finally shed the shock-and-awe tactics that put them where they are (costumes, live debauchery, dystopian fantasies), you would be only half right. While the Locust know their gravy train and ride it well (this is not Kiss without the make-up yet), for a band that has always been punk over process, New Erections plays like prog warfare: meticulously calculated and designed for maximum damage.
The first hint of reconstruction comes with opener “AOTKPTA,” which favors Melvins’ sludge to blinding staccato riffs, guttural vocals to the shrieks of idjits being drawn and quartered. By magnifying those brief but intense syncs between death-metal worthy drums and noxious synths, or by giving slow-motion scans of their guitarist’s labyrinthine blueprints, the band builds a brand new wasteland, recycling every bit of detritus from their past. After the initial hesitation to endure a three-minute Locust song, there’s a sense that “The Unwilling…Led By the Unqualified…Doing the Unnecessary” is considered the band’s current epic. It could be argued that they have simply strung together a series of nano-movements into one assemblage of grindcore and doom, but nothing seems out of place; the drifting space frequencies, the crawling industrial clang, the King-Crimson-on-45 bookends all form a monolith of aural nihilism.
Even songs on New Erections that qualify as old hat—“Full Frontal Obscurity” or “Slum Service (Served on the Sky)”—manage to reveal growth, a precise filing system for the band’s wide circle of influence, airing out blitzkrieg arpeggios and shards of digital skree with equal aplomb. Though I’d like to think the Locust have continually straddled the line between visceral future-punk and pure absurdity/novelty for some time, here they make the case that both ends of the spectrum remain crucially important.