Review: Bummer ‘Dead Horse’

Even if you don’t take the time to check out a note of the music on Bummer‘s gloriously ugly new album Dead Horse, you need to stop what you’re doing and give them the round of applause they so clearly deserve for delivering the song title of the year in the form of the Putnam-esque I Want To Punch Bruce Springsteen In The Dick. The title of that track alone, whether they meant it to or not, sums up the Kansas trio’s character perfectly, an expert blend of absurd dark humour and unhinged violence that’s as exhilarating, yet brutal as, a backyard wrestling match.

Bummer ‘Dead Horse’

What Bummer deliver on this new album is a refinement of what’s come before from them. Connecting the dots between the primitivist bludgeon of early AmRep, and the kind of chaotic metalcore of Botch and Coalesce (who’s Sean Ingram guests on Juice Pig here), their tighter and heavier approach elevates them above some of their loosey goosey peers. While the influences aren’t too difficult to spot, Dead Horse is a record that could only be Bummer, rather than a simple attempt to colour within the lines or ape their predecessors. They’d already achieved a distinct personality on their precious output but here they’re more confident, if not downright brash. Their secret? While not entirely free of melody, the band are on first name terms with catchy; the riffs here are as memorable as they are savage. 

There are in fact two songs on Dead Horse with ‘punch’ in the title, the other being Donkey Punch. It’s tempting to draw the conclusion that the band designed this record to have the impact of a champion boxer, which it most certainly does. It’s potentially damaging but deeply entertaining.

an expert blend of absurd dark humour and unhinged violence…

If there’s one facet of the Bummer assault that really comes to the fore here, it has to be the vocal haranguing of guitarist Matt Perrin – even in the barbed wilds of the noise-rock scene, his acidic rasp is astonishingly rabid, like infamous hardcore maverick Mike Cheese eating Tomas Lindberg. Welded to a song as massive as album peak Quadruple ZZ Top however, it somehow makes sense as the musical precision perfectly balances the wildness of his frayed voice, communicating a genuine rage beneath the cynical humour at work. Nervous energy seems to be what fuels the finest moments on Dead Horse. While my review copy was sadly without lyrics, thus obscuring his meaning, it’s easy for Perrin‘s delivery to communicate that energy, that mix of anxiety and overexcitement, clearly.

It really must be stressed how satisfying the actual song writing is throughout, rather than basing everything off the simple need to bludgeon. Bruce Springsteen… and False Floor nod faintly in the direction of prime Helmet but bend the streams of insistent drop D riffage into easily navigable directions, perfect examples of the band’s ability to write surprisingly accessible and listenable songs, without sacrificing the nastiness. When they let up on the distortion briefly for parts of the penultimate Magic Cruel Bus (the nearest Bummer will get to a pop song I suspect) and finale Rareware it’s only for a few bars before the machine step begins again, the enormous, polished boot to the head coming down to finish you off.

As with a lot of this kind of music it does have the odd moment of sameness that creeps in, the odd interchangeable riff. But that’s not to the detriment of Dead Horse at all, and the band’s tightness extends as much to the song writing as it does the execution. Dead Horse is a tribute to all things overdriven, a massive and joyous victory lap through Shitsville with a car full of homemade fireworks. You’ll feel as bloodied and bemused as the face on the album cover by the end, but you’ll be willing to go another round straight after.

Label: Thrill Jockey Records
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp | Twitter | Instagram

Scribed by: Jamie Grimes