Call it math rock with more hooks than a tackle box. The new LP from the U.K. quartet Perch — No Step, self-released and out Jan. 12 — exhibits all the shimmering precision and post-punk angularism of a Polvo or a Pell Mell, but does so with a alt-rock band’s alarming attention to earworms. This isn’t so much a follow-up to 2016’s excellent Umbra as it is a natural step forward. The guitars still ebb and flow like rivers, but the two-guitar attack (Jungfrau’s Luke Dunstan has been added for extra rhythm and texture on second guitar) lends itself to a punch and a kind of dynamism that Umbraoccasionally lacked.
There are some brilliant moments on the nine-song set, like the sometimes-thrashy “Song 5,” owing its existence to late-era Archers of Loaf, and the incredible opener “Lighthouse,” which sounds like June of 44 crossed with Nada Surf. The band still has some poppy sway to its delivery (the title track is evidence of that) and, at its heart, No Step is all about not boring us and getting to the catchy chorus. But few guitar-driven bands in 2018 (verdict still out on 2019) have made verse/chorus/verse sweets so dimensional; there’s an underlying web of tension that holds these songs together and the band’s best moments come when they explore that tension.
The LP closes with the almost eight-minute-long “Island of No Name” — self-referential Brit-rock notions: rockets away — and Perch is smart enough to undercut its shiny delivery with gnarled guitar hammers-on that unfurl like so many roots sprouting from diseased trees. By the end of the thing, with its epic fade-out, Chris Mitchell seems less like a guitarist/vocalist/frontman/whatever and more like a soothsayer. Thing’s that good. Check it out. — Justin Vellucci, MusicTAP, Jan. 8, 2019