The year is 1988 and the place is some dive bar outside Seattle. Or maybe it’s not – but it could be.
The guitar-driven trio Warish – whose Down In Flames LP, its full-length debut, is being released Friday via Riding Easy – elicits the punky thrills of grunge at its headiest, calling to mind Nirvana’s Bleach or Melvins’ Ozma played at 78 RPM. The record is consumed with adrenaline and chock full of distorted power chords and vaguely menacing vocals. But don’t go looking for any deeper messages or connotations; there, the story ends.
The 11 songs on Down In Flames are of a singular mindset: forging maximum force from basic three-chords-and-a-cloud-of-dust punk-isms. The formula isn’t far removed from forebears like The Sex Pistols but, while Cobain and other Johnny Rotten descendants flashed numerous points of musical reference, especially as their story unfurled, Warish can be a little monochromatic. The departures from the 4/4 proto-grunge – “Fight,” with its introduction of almost Middle Eastern scales, say – are rare and fleeting. Instead, we get songs like “Shivers,” where frontman Riley (son of Tony) Hawk barks distorted and unheard lyrics over repeating repeating repeating measures of guitar. It’s not that it’s stale – this can be energizing, if, again, a little repetitive – it’s just that, if you’re going to try to inject a little Misfits-style menace into your delivery, which is otherwise pretty boilerplate, you’ve got to go for the gold or so much of it just sounds like cribbing from the masters.
Verdict: aims for low-budget horror-punk and misses. – Justin Vellucci, Swordfish, Sept. 11, 2019