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Music

Subsets: twothousandfourteen

Grab your favorite tattered flannel and strap on your 10-hole steel-toed Doc Martens, because Subsets are bringing back the eighties with their new album twothousandfourteen.

For sixteen and a half minutes, every note of twothousandfourteen is a relentless assault of viking fury, packaged to sound like the best of underground bands from labels like SST and Epitaph Records.

I could spend hours describing how this bit sounds like this band and this bit reminds me of this album - but, in truth, that would do a disservice to Subsets.  Certainly, the various influences are apparent - everything from old-school, pre-skate-punk to hints of new-wave.  In fact, I was reminded of a great film from 1982 called Urgh! A Music War that shows off some of the best punk and new-wave bands of that era; and which was highly influential in the formation of MTV and, thus, on the musical culture of that era.  Had Subsets been around at that time, they would have fit in perfectly among such giants as Magazine, The Cramps, Gang of Four and The Fleshtones.

Todd Uttley's furious vocals and firey guitar play lead to Subsets.  His partner on guitar is Howie Wehrle and they are backed by the pounding drive created by Eric Bakie on bass and David Hilshorst on drums.  Collectively they create a sonic blast-furnace of fast-paced music with more depth and range than most punk bands get credit for.  

The album opens right-up-in-your-face with the aggression of "It Breeds" and "Situation" but then lets up ever-so-slightly and takes a turn toward more musical complexity.  There is some wonderful bass and effects-driven creativity in songs like "You Tasting Colors" and "Duct Tape Make-Out Party" that give Subsets' music a broader spectrum of appeal. 

One very important part of twothousandfourteen that I noticed right away was that the production (done by Uttley at Electric Eye Studios) really captures the warmth and texture of a late 1980s analog recording. Another thing about this album that is very successful - and one that is all-too-often overlooked - is the pacing.  The way one song transitions into another is superb and carries both the energy of the music and the attention of the listener all of the way through to the very last note.

By the time you reach the last track "Body Zero" with it's Stooges-meets-Voidoids temperament, you know that you've stumbled upon something special and you'll want to take a spin through this mosh pit a second time.

Be aware - Subset's twothousandfourteen is only available as a limited-edition release of 100 purple cassettes, so if you want to have a copy of this album for your music library, go see a Subset's show near you as soon as possible.  Or, if you want to take the easy way out, you can always download it from Bandcamp.