Published Sep 05, 2019After some serious road work around the world, Washington, DC instrumental trio the Messthetics have outdone their 2018 debut simply by getting to know each other a lot better.
Brendan Canty and Joe Lally of Fugazi reunited seamlessly, confirming their status as an all-time great rhythm section, but it was frenetic, wildcard guitarist Anthony Pirog who pushed them towards a whole new kind of comfort zone. A jazz and improvised music virtuoso (think Jimi Hendrix meets Nels Cline or something), Pirog has a bottomless well of riffs, tricks and tones, but his technical prowess is rooted in freedom. By their own admission, Canty and Lally could occasionally be taken aback by Pirog's plans and schemes, often hanging on by the skin of their teeth, as he challenged them with arrangement ideas.
As mentioned, on drums and bass respectively, Canty and Lally are no slouches; even years removed from their last Fugazi shows in 2002, they came back and played like time ain't no thing. Live, the Messthetics evoke the same goosebumps that Fugazi could, though, as a purely instrumental enterprise, our minds are stimulated differently. And as processors of information, when the Messthetics released their self-titled first album, some of us put a lot of pressure on ourselves to make the Messthetics instantly sound as great in our minds as Fugazi once did. Not only a tall order, but an impossible one.
The Messthetics make their own specific kind of magic, some of it rooted in their pasts, but mostly an idiosyncratic, new kind of chemical reaction. Take "Drop Foot," which possesses the mathematical impulses of a post-punk rocker, complete with a driving Nomeansno-esque section and a bass riff that would make Mike Watt happy. Or "Scrawler," which, like some of the best stuff here, deceives us into thinking it's one thing, but is all over the place. It is likely the most Fugazi-like song, with Canty and Lally locked into a familiar call-and-response, catch-and-release stomp, and Pirog playing guitar parts that recall the unique interplay between Guy Picciotto and Ian MacKaye.
There are introspective moments here too, such as the slow building "Pay Dust," which revels in both structure and improvisation, or "Because the Mountain Says So," which similarly sets up a meeting between form and noise. Indeed, Anthropocosmic Nest is full of loud blasts from the Messthetics, but it's also dynamic, revealing a patient, thoughtful approach to songwriting, which, beyond exhibiting the band's musical proficiency, is a real signifier of genuine friendship and trust. (Dischord)