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Strange Matter w/ Brain Tumors, Total Trash and Soup Moat @ Quarters Rock ’N’ Roll Palace

March 16, 2013

Mar. 20, 2013
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A lot is made about the musical exchange between Milwaukee and Chicago, and with good reason, but we also have a pretty well established relationship with the Twin Cities, probably the next most likely decision for a local band booking a quick trip out of state. Conversely, that means we also get a good number of Minneapolis and St. Paul bands popping up on bills around Milwaukee. This was the case with Saturday’s lineup at Quarters, which illustrated why it’s a good decision to make the trip and expose your sound to a whole new group of likeminded listeners, who in this case like things loud and fast.

First up was Milwaukee’s Soup Moat, a one-time trio that switched to a guitar and drums duo some time ago but never really lost a beat as far as their songwriting and general development are concerned. In fact, they’ve been playing out quite a bit, steadily honing their sound while still allowing for all the off-the-wall abstractness and noisy, humorous collisions of doomy metal and spastic punk, which are well represented on last year’s WE RAWISH, a 14-song full-length that of course clocks in at less than 20 minutes (and is available as a name-your-price download through the group’s Bandcamp page).

The middle of this four-band bill was rounded out by two visiting Minnesota bands, the first of which, Total Trash, plays a blistering take on classic moody hardcore à la early Die Kreuzen or Damaged-era Black Flag. The band is tight and has a good sense of dynamics, but what puts their sound across, both literally and figuratively, is singer Jessica Katz, who, though small in stature, stalks around the room and gets in people’s faces like she owns the place. Her unconventionally menacing presence and unhinged, screaming vocals lend a lot of life to a rather well-worn style.

The band shares a member, as well as a retro approach to hardcore punk, with Brain Tumors, who were up next. But while Brain Tumors are no less indebted to the ’80s, theirs is a less arty strain of punk, more bratty and suburban, all speed and fuck-society teenage attitude. Thankfully they’ve got some sense of humor about themselves. The tongue-in-cheek vulgarities and provocations the lead singer traded with the audience were actually funny, whereas a lot of bands who play that card just come off as stupid. The band holds it up on the musical end as well, with the drummer—who beat the hell out of an impossibly crisp-sounding snare—shining in particular.

Playing last was local act Strange Matter, who’ve been on hiatus for the last six months but returned here sounding refreshed as opposed to rusty, leading off with some yelping Minutemen-style post-punk before transitioning to more ominous metal and thrash textures. Made up of members or ex-members of other notable Milwaukee punk bands, including No Brainer, Truthdealer and Holy Shit!, the band had expectations to meet. Further raising the stakes was the billing of “comeback show,” but Strange Matter excelled under pressure. It was a memorable night, even if it was over in a flash (short sets are underrated), as well as a good case of synergy across state lines.


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