[REVIEWS] Xerxes – Collision Blonde – No Sleep Records (2014)
In the relatively short time they’ve been around, Xerxes’ sound has evolved considerably. From the raw hardcore punk influence of the Twins 7” to the bleak, rapid attack of their first full length, the band quickly matured and grew with each release. While I thoroughly enjoy all their early releases, it was last year’s Would You Understand? 7”, and particularly the track Tramadol, that made me really fall in love with the band. When I first heard the fascinating crossover between their dark emotional hardcore sound and a sort of barren, vast vibe seemingly inspired by bands like Slint, I was super hooked and eager to hear more.
Xerxes’ second full length record Collision Blonde begins with a violent swell, sprinkled with dissonant feedback and a trudging bassline. Criminal, Animal immediately identifies one of the most compelling characteristics of the record; a hollow, chorused out guitar tone that encapsulates their incredible melange of punk fury and a pronounced 80’s aesthetic. A Toast builds nicely upon this, anchored by vocalist Calvin Philley’s powerful spoken word passage and a catchy, effective chorus.
Knife begins with a riff that could have come straight out of a Smiths song while the bass and drums give it a dark, brooding hardcore punk undertone. The shift in the chord progression during the chorus at 1:43 is heart-wrenching and leads fantastically into a pissed, chaotic breakdown. And then, out of nowhere, Use as Directed introduces a brief darkwave vibe, slightly evoking artists like Xeno and Oaklander or Xander Harris and allowing for a satisfying break from the heaviness.
Chestnut Street was one of the first tracks premiered from the record and it paints a comprehensive picture of what makes this record so good. The song is catchy and engaging but also heavy and powerful, and is led and characterized by that incredible guitar tone.
The title track Collision Blonde seems like the logical progression or evolution from Tramadol. The chorus, with an ethereal explosion of guitar and languid groove, is by far my favorite part of the record. Exit 123 is built around what sounds like maybe a drill at the dentist’s office or some kind of other jarring vibration. It is a driving, pulsating jam that once again features a fantastically outlined chord progression and a fascinating layout/structure in general.
The Slint-style spoken word passages/sound returns in (but here we are). As opposed to Tramadol, this song doesn’t explode into heaviness, but rather trudges along under Calvin’s gripping monologue. The fury quickly returns in Nosedive, however, an anomalous tune that is both dark and vivacious. It is an extremely fitting and effective end to the record, a culmination of the brilliant juxtaposition of bright and shadowy tones on the record, eventually ground through a harsh climax where Calvin angrily repeats “I can’t make it stop”.
On top of the songs being really good and well written, this record is a truly original piece of music. It establishes Xerxes unique sound and aesthetic and distinguishes them from other bands in the genre. Highly recommended.