MusicTAP Record of the Year (2019)

It’s an ugly, vicious thing for an ugly, vicious year. And, yeah, there might be bigger chart-toppers from 2019 or “better” market-researched deep-cuts out there polished to within an inch of their life, but I’m tipping my hat and giving my Hall of Fame vote this year to a series of explosions from Pittsburgh. 2019’s anti-record, the noise that keeps clattering in my head as we near 2020, is TRVSS’ Absence.

I thought noise rock was trudging along on aging bones when The Jesus Lizard trotted out for a reunion tour in 2009. Man, was I wrong. Bands like Microwaves, Elephant Rifle and Exhalants – and others – all prove there’s a vigorous and venomous second-coming in the works. And that says nothing of the San Andrean impact of Absence, which seemingly came out of nowhere this fall.

Absence is the rock n roll your momma warned you about: pounding, tribal rhythms, sensually throbbing bass and barbed-wire guitars lashing out at the ears and every other which way they can lunge. Then, there’s the barked leads of frontman Daniel Gene, who sounds at times like he’s fronting Fugazi and at other times like he’s guiding Truman through the Manhattan Project. On “Late Night Monologue,” his screams are coming from so deep in his belly, you can hardly make out what he’s saying. “The North” is a stop-and-start wet dream, a coition ignition mission. The intro to “Detroit, Etc.” is skin-blistering, aluminum guitar work at its finest. “Shockwaves” and the fast-on-its-feet slash-punk of “Vis1ons” are the songs Tomahawk wish they wrote. (On “Vis1ons,” in particular, the jackhammer-rhythm section of bassist Jake Pellatiro and drummer Neal Leventry soars mightily.)

Absence is 2019’s finest noise-rock record, without question, but it’s also a snapshot of America, in all its warts and broken-empire glory, as it sulks to the seething, snarling gallows. I only hope we resurrect and remain as pissed off and vigilant in 2020 – now there’s an Election Year resolution I can endorse.  – Justin Vellucci, MusicTAP, Dec. 30, 2019

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