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Parts & Labor - Stay Afraid

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Artist: Parts & Labor

Album: Stay Afraid

Label: Jagjaguwar

Review date: Mar. 30, 2006

It’s hard to enter the done-to-death loud n’ fast sweepstakes with an ounce of integrity or novelty these days. Too often phoned in for aggro thrills or top-this vanity, today’s hey-ho-let’s-go antics are beginning to feel a bit played and frayed. Brooklyn beardos Parts & Labor must have missed the memo though, since their bracing new album takes a valiant stab at the purity and sincerity of the real deal.

Fusing sci-fi dissonance with skyscraping songcraft, the trio set their amps at 11 and aim for a ragged glory that is both ringing and true. A ravenous and headlong display of frenzied dynamics, proggy tempo changes, power electronics, feedback blizzards and honest-to-goodness American hardcore blood-sweat-tears, Stay Afraid is refreshingly unabashed and free of pretense. Deploying an arsenal of treble and fuzz trickery, the production here is reminiscent of industrial-strength indie stalwarts like Chrome and Flour, not to mention the invigorating melody-rich furor of Mission Of Burma or Wire. Lo-fi epics like "A Great Divide" ride a full-bore wall of noise tempered by a sweetly earnest core, while “Timeline” surfs on sine waves below a welter of uplifting boy-angst. (Is that a fax machine beneath that anthemic bellowing, or did they lose that memo too?)

Formerly an instrumental band, Parts & Labor’s lyrics are a bit heavy on the cut-up invective that has become de rigueur for post-hardcore post-grads these days, but the emotions are on point and delivered with panache. Yes, life in the big city can be a dehumanizing drag, but with music of such exultant abandon, it hardly seems to matter.

Packing a mass of vibrant detail into 30 pogo-tastic minutes, Stay Afraid imagines a space where Casiotone finger-mashing and SY tone-stacking share equal billing with mosh-worthy efficiency, where Hüsker Düvian heights are scaled over distressed pocket calculator blips, and the edge of no control is reined in by a sharp clarity of purpose. As tactile and boldly jagged as the album’s cover art, the music of Parts & Labor is a shot in the arm of today’s jaded complacency.

By Lawrence Lui

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