There are a lot of reasons why power chords endure in music of righteous anger, but when you get down to it, it’s obvious the main reason is because they just feel good. You hit that simple shape and let it ring out and feel the sustain and it’s like the vibration is synced up to your body. So the bands that can avoid falling back on that aren’t merely making an aesthetic decision but also rejecting a pure pleasure— wiry, discordant, single note angularity of the sort that Post Pink provide on I Believe You, OK is revolutionary in its discipline and sound, their fury personified by trebly gut stabs rather than the sonic equivalent of big fists against soft flesh.
The Baltimore quartet’s new album is anxious and weird, frequently stress inducing in the way it stacks jittery guitar lines and yelping vocals up against booming bass and drums. I Believe You, OK is a work that wants to deny you more expected pleasures in order to better command your attention. That’s not to say it doesn’t achieve its own kind of fun— “Maid in Mexico” is a thrilling missing link between Sleater-Kinney and Fugazi and the most “fuck yeah!” moment on the album as a result— but Post Pink excel at music that you can shout along to even as you squirm.
“Icky Arnold” serves as a handy example of that quality of the band’s sound, with the start-stop rhythm of the music grinding against the more forceful and regular delivery of the music. In tone and style, David Van McAleer’s guitar work recalls Ricky Wilson’s weirdo heroics in the B-52s, but with a sinister underbelly in place of camp. When “Icky Arnold” hits its chorus and the guitar does unveil some chords, it’s hazy and open, matching the wailing, eerie quality of Angela Swiecicki’s vocal. Even the surfier punk textures of “Socks” serve as a distraction from the weirder underpinnings, giving you a hook to desperately cling onto as Emily Ferrara’s bass gets pointedly off-kilter and the vocals go murderous.
Album opener “High” mixes it up even more, with a wandering guitar lead that inexplicably stops offering up hooks when the chorus arrives. Instead, the vocals get sing-songy, demanding that you don’t “Push me, push me/Off of my pedestal” since you were the one who “Put me too high to fall,” over herky-jerky guitar and bass and Sam Whitelaw’s unexpectedly martial drum beat. Lesser bands would have given in to the pressure to make that chorus huge, the guitars blowing up as the drums get simpler and more insistent, but Post Pink don’t want you to ever get complacent.
What’s perhaps most remarkable, though, is how natural Post Pink make all of this sound. I Believe You, OK never feels forced, the chemistry between the instruments is unnatural, and Swiecicki’s vocal is strong and charismatic yet unforgiving in its intensity and unpredictability. I Believe You, OK resides in its own uncharted territory, far away from the expected and safe, and it is all the better for it.
Nick Hanover got his degree from Disneyland, but he’s the last of the secret agents and he’s your man. Which is to say you can find his particular style of espionage here at Loser City as well as Ovrld, where he contributes music reviews and writes a column on undiscovered Austin bands. You can also flip through his archives at Comics Bulletin, which he is formerly the Co-Managing Editor of, and Spectrum Culture, where he contributed literally hundreds of pieces for a few years. Or if you feel particularly adventurous, you can always witness his odd .gif battles with friends and enemies on twitter: @Nick_Hanover