Review: The Gotobeds – “Debt Begins At 30”

The Gotobeds released its new LP, the much-anticipated Debt Begins At 30, yesterday via Sub Pop Records. That move, the introduction of a new slate of head-churning material, gives us the ideal opportunity to re-examine and reevaluate these kings of the Pittsburgh underground or, as their peers are wont to say, the local band that writes songs more Jagr than Crosby.

The quartet, which formed largely out of local noise-makers Kim Phuc a decade-ish ago, always has flirted with greatness — much like its hometown — flashing, seemingly without effort, aged-beyond-their-years calling cards of Pavement-style trash rock mixed with the best post-punk can offer. (The group’s eye for design and sense of vitriolic performance don’t hurt them.) On Debt, a record that already has caused some critics to drool all over themselves, they add another color to the mix: resignation.

Now, I’m not talking resignation in the sense that much (?) of the Left is hoping of the ever-impeachable Senor Trump; there is nothing resolved here to defeat. But there is a contemplation of it, a kind of embracing or acceptance — very fitting to the title — that the best within us ages and rots, and that the wicked world only exacerbates the ritual of it all. If frontman Eli/Hazy Lazer and his band of merry men are 30 (or near it), the debt they’re weighing isn’t, as it has been on past Gotobeds records, a debt by young-inz to punk forebears who paved the way. It is the more literal debt we receive when, reaching adulthood, we give the world our all — and it gives nothing back.

This is not to say the new record is morose. Though it has some lingering morbid details to it — the glassy guitar-pickled verses of “Calquer The Hound,” much of “Parallel,” the heartbeat-bass opening to the title track — Debt still exhibits the band’s distinct joie-de-vivre, with chikka-chikka guitar leads, in particular, that gleefully skitter and skatter across the surface of the disc. “Slang Words,” the gradually boiling “Bleached Midnight,” and the familiarly titled “Poor People Are Revolting” are epic stuff. And “Parallel,” whose bass and twinkling piano – yes, piano! — burble below a layer of carefully measured guitar and downright beautiful, poppy melody, might be one of the band’s greatest songs to date. But a sense of, I don’t know, maturing, of aging, of time passing and passing us by, pervades much of the material. The group is improving with time — the record is more developed than its predecessor, Blood Sugar Secs Traffic, which, itself, was mighty, mighty good — but also reflecting on that growing maturity. In short: they now have to pave the roads.

Much has been made of the mixtape-style of the release, and there’s something to be said for the songwriting (and studio) care that holds these collaborations and feat. artists all together. The group is assisted, quite ably, by a peanut gallery of underground hooligans, from Silkworm’s Tim Midyett, Shellac’s Bob Weston and indie icon Gerard Cosloy to Victoria Ruiz of Downtown Boys, members of Kim Phuc, and Pavement’s Bob Nastanovich, among many others. The fact that, sonically, the band sounds like itself track in and track out blows my goddamn mind. And yet, at its heart, this is a Gotobeds effort and one which the group proudly wears on its sleeves. Now, as those of us past 30 continue to toil the soil, we must all turn to the mighty Gotobeds for future lessons — and future noise. – Justin Vellucci, MusicTAP, June 1, 2019

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