Lars Finberg, who performs here as The Intelligence, makes experimental punk rock weighted down with paranoia. He emerged as the bolts-and-bolts drummer of A Frames, and like that band, he builds songs off goose-stepping beats and code-like lyrics. But unlike the cold groove of A Frames, The Intelligence can't help but swing a little. The singing hints at emotion, as stilted phrasing sometimes becomes a howl. It never breaks a sweat, for sure, but as with the latest Dirtbombs record, these songs are like pop that has been wiretapped, shocked and muzzled, whereas the A Frames are a robot's guess at how rock music sounds.
Finberg takes pleasantries like pumping soul organ or sparkly guitar––tones that suggest something more elaborate––and reduces them to two or three chords. Each song tries on a different set of textures. The punkishness here comes from dismal outlook and simplicity, as individual tracks might be heavy or atmospheric, densely layered or minimal. But they're all bleak and over quick. Taken one at a time, the material can be undercooked. It works best as a flow of sketched ideas.
Case in point: the ringer on Deuteronomy is a cover. Kindred spirit John Dwyer provides "Block of Ice". The Intelligence's version showed up well before Dwyer released his own take (with Thee Oh Sees, in March). The Dwyer version is spaced out and banging just like The Intelligence. But it gets a momentum going, swaying like the '60s garage rock it's fashioned from. Finberg keeps it mechanical and precise, with the low keys of a piano rolling underneath the bounce of an indistinct fuzz lead. The tempo is set in stone, and that makes it even better at showcasing the deliciously confusing slogan "I don't want to be destroyed / I just want to lay on this block of ice." Finberg comes up with some lines that are nearly as evocative ("going out with you is like dating a cop", "sno-cone stuck in the back of your throat"). But the collaboration on "Block of Ice" pulls a dada anthem from two guys who'd rather toss stuff off. Indeed, the notes to Deuteronomy say it was recorded in one day, mixed all on another.
It makes one wonder what else might be lurking out there in the catalogs of labels like In the Red, S-S, and Narnak. All these acts take a fire axe to their compositions––recording cheaply, chopping tracks down to the two-minute mark, burying the vocals behind broken mics and echo. The finished products drive so hard that sometimes a snippet of lyric or guitar are all that can be grasped. But the discs probably wouldn't work so well if there weren't fully conceived songs working underneath the shitstorm. Bands like this should rework each others' songs more often, they way '60s creeps were comfortable covering thier contemporaries. It's not like these guys labor under heavy-handed industry execs trying to water down their vision so it'll play in Peoria. Some constructive feedback between fellow psychosis victims, and the true nature of the conspiracy might be revealed.