Channels: Waiting for the Next End of the World
J. Robbins has been a part of the Mid-Atlantic music scene for about 20 years now, playing in such landmark bands as Government Issue and Jawbox. And while lately he’s been spending most of his time working as a producer, he’s still making excellent music as part of Channels. The other members--Janet Morgan, formerly of Shonben, on bass and Darren Zentek, formerly of Oswego and Kerosene 454, on drums--also have deep roots in the local postpunk scene, and the trio has hit on a subtle, layered sound, the off-kilter rhythms and dissonant chord changes familiar from two decades of Dischord worked into surprisingly melodic songs. Compared to some of the members’ earlier bands, Channels turns down the volume a bit, with softly sung vocals, acoustic guitar here and there, and lyrics that flip-flop between clever, witty, and cryptic.
Fittingly given the title, Waiting for the Next End of the World is suffused with dread and anger over the state of things both here and abroad, Channels venting its collective anger and frustration at the Bush administration’s actions over the past six years. "To the New Mandarins" mocks Tom Ridge’s color-coded terror alert system, while "New Logo" half-jokingly declares, "My eyes have seen the glory, yeah, and we’re fucked." Elsewhere the band shifts away from global politics to wrestle with generalized alienation, the despair of the 9-to-5 grind, and the basic difficulties of interpersonal relationships in the 21st century, but crucially the album avoids outright pessimism. The jaunty "Chivaree" makes a declaration of happiness in the face of horror: "This fucking century/ Puts bombs in my dreams/ But I wake in the one place I want to be." Although Waiting lacks the abrasive edge of some of the members of Channels earlier work, it points to a new direction, one you’d almost expect after spending most of your adult life playing tense, loud rock music--a little quieter, but no less compelling and thoughtful. (Paul Glenn)