Smut: P U R S E

Nov 11, 2014

I'd like you to take a moment and think of your record collection and pick out your two favorite albums. Now, take your favorite sounds from those two albums.

I don't mean think of your favorite songs, but rather, just take an assortment of those uniquely sublime moments that put a hook in your brain and make you think, "Yeah, this is MY music." Try to distill all of that down into something that represents the very essence of the kind of music that speaks to you as an individual on an intimate, almost personal level. Now collect all of those little bits and pieces and mash them together in some kind of mental particle collider.

If you had my brain, the resulting fusion would probably sound an awful lot like PURSE, the new album from Cincinnati band Smut.

Specifically, the two albums in my mind were EVOL by Sonic Youth and Nirvana's Bleach - two records that profoundly and permanently changed the way I think about music. For both of these bands, these albums are just on the cusp of their rise to fame - while the bands were still raw, untamed and very, very hungry.

That same savage craving permeates PURSE like kerosene until it is ignited by Taylor Roebuck's white-hot vocals. Her voice, coincidentally, boils at an unstable temperature somewhere between Kim Gordon and Kurt Cobain.  

The guitar work by Smut's Andrew Glover channels that same offset solid-body Fender Jaguar sound that was Sonic Youth's heart and soul. His playing on PURSE is distinctly expressive and raunchy and adds abundant fuel to this conflagration. 

Sam Ruschman [bass] and Leo Kessler [drums] dual performances are smooth, understated and give PURSE a nicely-balanced component of both control and chaos. Together, they provide a grounding platform from which both Roebuck and Glover can leap in to the abyss of sonic exploration.

From the aggression of "Sleeting" to the discomforting intimacy of "Hysterectomy," the words and music on PURSE comprise brief yet powerful bursts of explicit energy that are both deeply personal and tragically universal. The poetry does not spoonfeed you its story but rather engages you on a non-literal level and squeezes you until the essence of it seeps out.

"Lissed" is a slight anomaly in that it has an almost pop-rock beat groove to it, but it serves as a lovely counterpart to "Mulder's Daydream," a song that all but betrays the band's obsession with The X-Files.

Though every single one of the five songs on PURSE contains that nuclear fusion of sound that brings me back 25 years or more, it is the song "Shalom Harlow" that I have probably gone back to most often. The sociopathic opening of the song gives way to a surrender of control and an acceptance of entropy that I find irresistible.

I'm a brand new coil in an old machine,
The tension alone is killing me, 
All wrapped up in a silicon nest, 
Plastic wings on a family crest.

Hug me, kiss me, tell me you missed me
Fasten yourself to my outstretched limbs
I can't control that the body is shaking
For I'm only petals and you are the stem.

PURSE was recorded, mixed and mastered by John Hoffman at the The Ice Cream Factory. Like his work with LeggyGazer and Sleeves, Hoffman's brilliance shows in his ability to find that sonic sweet spot somewhere between ferocious loudness and subtle clarity.

All this month, Smut will be doing a residency at The Comet in Northside. If you get the chance, I recommend making the trip because this band is raw, untamed, hungry and poised on their own cusp of something much bigger, louder and more ferocious than even themselves.