Double Dagger: Masks
It's not a fault, per se, but listening to this follow-up to last year's fantastic punk-and-then-some breakout full-length More, it's apparent that something was sacrificed in its production that makes Masks an almost jarring transition. More was sharp, clean, and, well, immaculate. And it didn't quite capture the fuck-all catharsis of a Double Dagger live show--arguably, that live show is a large part of what built DD as a top-of-the-pile local band, that raw energy and earnest angst. Masks is the record that gets it, that shows the band snotting noise and feedback, trembling against the rails, that yells out just how much all this musical "rehash" makes frontman Nolen Strals "physically ill" (from "Imitation Is the Most Boring Form of Flattery"). (Strals and bassist Bruce Willen are occasional City Paper contributors.)
Masks is somehow both sharper and less sharp--songs feel more like single barreling entities than well-formulated, multi-pronged sonic assaults. This is bare expression, and it is loud and it is raw. Just listen to Strals absolutely coming apart at the vocal cords on "Pillow Talk"; bathe in the languid bass melodies and washes of feedback and distortion of "Song for S" (the disc's sedate close); bark along to the anthem of "Sleeping With the TV On," like you're supposed to, of course. Note, however, that it's pretty much the only anthem on Masks, which just hammers in farther just how primal this can be. How about this, on "Sleeping With the TV On" again? "Remember that night when my mouth forgot how to work?/ you said, we're most beautiful when we struggle/ well, sometimes my life has more beauty than I can handle." Listen to Masks, hear its brutish struggle, and know that it is awesome--Double Dagger in a pure, rugged state, just like you probably met them.