By Austin Franklin, Special to the Sybaritic Singer
“this place is actually the worst”, is the latest eponymous album by the Brooklyn-based post-punk/math-rock/hardcore duo, this place is actually the worst, founded by Andrew Noseworthy (guitar, vox, electronics) and Aaron Garcia (guitar, vox, electronics). This 10-track album is an aggressive blend of the rhythmic complexity and extreme dissonance that is prevalent in math-core while maintaining the regularity and formal fluidity that most punk rock music appropriates. This is not to suggest that the album is merely just a regurgitation of the past 40-50 years of mainstream garage rock, in fact, it is quite the contrary. Part of what separates this album from the idioms of math-core/punk rock is its reliance on and juxtaposition of the common stylistic traits found in both of these genres. Like the old saying goes, “before you know where you are going, you have to know where you’ve been.” The combination and interpretation of these two genres are the main components of “this place is actually the worst’s” characteristic sound. There are also other components, such as the use of electronics, saxophones, and backing vocals (by Phong Tran and Shelley Washington) , all of which contribute to a conglomerate of sounds that are capable of appealing to everyone from your classic punk rockers to your more adventurous listeners.
The lyrics of “this place is actually the worst” don’t serve a purely platonic relationship with the music. They have a very recitative-type quality, and interject independently above everything else happening musically. The language suggests another juxtaposition, one between the feelings of pain and pleasure after experiencing a long night out, which is a common theme throughout the album. “Deep River Waterpark” has a particular line that reads,
“Just a bad place to go/
definitely the place for you”,/
or in Pure Bliss Fullness,/
“They aren’t kidding when they say pour hard, like go vertical/
with that bottle./
Glass on draught with BBQ/
one of my favorite drinking experiences./
your practice will be rewarded.”
The album is full of these type of sinister internal confrontations and late-night themes of less than innocent behavior, with “Girasol” recounting buying tacos al pastor at four A.M., or “Deep River Waterpark” presenting a story about driving two hours to a place only to find out that they are closed.
Alongside this confrontation, a comedic element can be found in some of the lyrics. In “Village Lantern”,
“This place is actually the worst/
I came here on an obviously slow Friday night/
a couple weeks ago/
and basically watched a total/
display of inappropriate behavior/
which is fine/
I had no problem with this”,/
or in “Remembering Palace”,/
I am emo dad!/
Aside from the overtly pragmatic, the album places a fundamental role on the saxophones, backing vocals, and the electronic elements (all of which are basically foreign to both math-rock and punk music), blending them seamlessly with the guitars and contributing to the overall sound, creating a unique sonic palate with each song. These “extra” roles come from Noseworthy’s attempt to combine unlike instruments, and to reinterpret these voices in new ways. These unlikely instrumental combinations exist to serve 2 main purposes: to add dynamic timbral sonorities to particular textures, and to serve as the main percussive voice (specifically electronics). The latter is a drum track that enhances the clarity in which tempo/time changes are felt, and to bring a sense of familiarity to the fast upbeat passages that are more punk rock oriented.
Even though their role in the song is purely textural and easily overlooked if not listening intently, the saxophones on “Village Lantern”, played by Nick Joven (alto saxophone) and Washington (baritone saxophone), provide an example of the level of intricacy that is inseparable from the personal influences of both Noseworthy and Garcia. In fact, one of Garcia’s primary musical interests is to attempt to blur the lines between band/ensemble and song/composition, and with the saxophones playing irregular accent patterns underneath the odd-metered guitar riff one could easily make a comparison to textures also found in wind ensemble music. There are many other individual moments like this throughout the album that to truly experience them all in one listen would be next to impossible.
In “this place is actually the worst”, Noseworthy and Garcia combine multiple mediums and soundscapes in a variety of purposeful ways, while still maintaining true to the heart of math-core/punk rock values. They blend the expected and unexpected to create something truly unique. Whether you are an experimental-head or a long-time veteran (you can order cassettes!), “this place is actually the worst” will make a great addition to your library.
Austin Franklin is an emerging composer from Baton Rouge, LA where he is pursuing a master’s degree in music composition at LSU under Dinos Constantinides. His primary area of interest pertains to the development of hierarchical pitch structures and complex patterns in music. Austin’s works have been performed throughout United States and Greece. He has won several awards and commissions, such as the Sound/Sight Art Collaboration and the First Annual LSU Composers Competition, and has several pieces published through C-Alan Publications.
Ricky Franklin says
Having just listened to “This place is actually the worst”, I have to say that Austin really nailed it with this review. I was able to hear in the music exactly what Austin described. His vivid description of the work drew me in and allowed me to fully experience the music and sounds. Although this music is not really my cup of tea, Austin’s review caused me to be able appreciate it more than I would have without the review. You can bet I’ll be checking back frequently to hopefully see more insightful reviews from Austin!
Megan Ihnen says
Thank you so much! I think Austin’s review was quite insightful and definitely made me want to check out the album too. Thanks for keeping an eye out for Austin’s future contributions to the site. I really appreciate it.