Review: TRVSS – “Instant Drugs”

The ascendant noise-rock trio TRVSS has a potent little drug ditty percolating that’s about to harsh your mellow.

Titled (yes, appropriately) “Instant Drugs,” the explosive, three-and-a-half-minute rage-a-thon is right in line with the Pittsburgh group’s first two LPs, a pair of gems from eras COVID (2020) and pre-COVID (2019). The details, as they say, though, make all the goddamned difference here. In the band’s current line-up – guitarist/vocalist Daniel Gene is the only remaining founding member – frontman Gene’s caterwaul roars are mixed right into the skin and grimy crunch of the guitar’s distortion, which presents a particularly abrasive, skinned-knee kinda sound. “Feeling the pressure that put you at ease/ I can’t clean myself off/ I can’t tell what’s going on,” he barks over an all-together grungy refrain, everything recorded at peak 11. “There’s no fire, only mirrors and smoke/ You create a messiah and it ends up a ghost.”

The guitar then drops back to a steady 4/4 lurch as drummer John Kerr accents his walloping blasts with a couple slaps of the crash. “Marijuana!” Gene roars. “Marijuana!” If that’s not a suitable – and anthemic, mind you – argument for legalizing recreational cannabis in Pennsylvania, what is, really? The moment, a real dose of tension-releasing liberation for those tripping the light fantastic, calls to mind Kurt Cobain’s trademarked throat-shredding on “Moist Vagina,” sometimes referred to in most discerning company as “M.V.” Over a slightly less, um, bombastic refrain, Cobain simply roared the same word again and again: “Marijuana. Marijuana. Marijuana.” Leave it to Daniel Gene to make the almighty St. Cobain sound like a mild-mannered insurance salesman with an itchy, little habit about which he doesn’t want to cop to his special lady friend.

There’s a breakdown about two-thirds of the way through the track where the noise falls a way a bit and the trio gets to strut, if only briefly. It’s an interesting look into the band’s process of writing and performing these coiled offerings, and a moment to catch one’s breath. Gene’s aluminum-body guitar belts out mightily rusted clatter-trap during the intro and this, thankfully, appears again during the breakdown – a hint, almost, of fragmented harmonics and palm-muting. And, like bassist William Novalis’ grimy little fills, Kerr and Gene build back the tension until everything is shrieking again. “They’ll dig up the bodies only to bury the lede – I need contact/ Constant contact/ But constant flies,” he barks before shouting at the top of his lungs, again, “Marijuana!”

The American underground offers a rich history lesson in the celebration of illicit drugs – even well before the cultural Cash Cow that was/is the 1960s counterculture. But, while some bands translated the use of substances into structures that hinted at the drug’s preferred effects – insert reference to “dope” and to rambling, semi-coherent narratives during Grateful Dead jams here – TRVSS has taken a decidedly different tact. Instead of getting dopy, Gene and company angrily attest to the fact that, sometimes, the drug of choice is all that keeps us from coming apart at the seams. And if that don’t harsh that mellow of yours, kiddo, nothing will.

“Instant Drugs” is available for download on Bandcamp at https://trvss.bandcamp.com/track/instant-drugs — Justin Vellucci, MusicTAP, Nov. 5, 2021

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About the author

Justin Vellucci is a staff writer for PopMatters, Spectrum Culture, and MusicTAP, a contributor to Pittsburgh Current, and a former staffer for Popdose, Punk Planet and Delusions of Adequacy. His music writing has appeared in national magazines such as American Songwriter, alt-pubs like The Brooklyn Rail, Pittsburgh CityPaper and San Diego CityBeat, blogs Swordfish, Punksburgh and Linoleum, and the Gannett magazine Jetty. He lives in Pittsburgh.

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