It’s been twenty years since New York’s Chavez have graced our ears with their angular, discordant interpretation of punk. Having never officially split, the promise of new material was alway on the cards, but the members’ other commitments with likes Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Zwan, Run The Jewels and Mike Judge made it substantially less tangible. But like their twisted, asymmetrical music would suggest, Chavez will always find a way to catch you off guard. That’s what their latest EP, Cockfighters, is, a trifle of a release designed to destroy any preemptive obituaries and to announce that they are alive and well and living in song.
What immediately hits you from the word go are the Middle Eastern twinges on those guitars. Those looping, dissonant chords fit so perfectly into this genre, their omission as this stylistic choice from bands of this ilk is quite surprising. They work incredibly well in Chavez’s favour as when the band lock into a groove, they could level the Himalayas. This is due in no small part to the buzzing, almost chainsaw-like guitar tone, but also the absolutely dynamite rhythm section. The opening few moments of ‘The Singer Lied’ are a testament to this, as the colossal bass and frenetic drums hold you in place while the central, ‘Man Who Sold The World’-like, riff clobbers you. But this pales in comparison to the EP’s real show-stopping number, ‘Blank In The Blaze’. It’s the sound of a band playing to the strengths but not getting complacent within that as a Slint inspired verse with a frustratingly simple two note rhythm guitar drives the song to its fantastic climax. Drummer James Lo is on top form here and his freeform playing in the chorus and final crescendo is stellar.
While this is a wonderful, little nugget of an EP, it’s is pretty insubstantial. It’s three cuts and clocks in at less than ten minutes. This isn’t the kind of spectacle that people kick down doors for; it’s enthralling but, ultimately, slight. What’s very interesting about these pieces, though, is that they all possess the feeling of being somewhat out of time. It’s like they’ve been in stasis since Clinton and are being thawed out to be a final broadcast for an oft-forgotten scene. These would have represented the better cuts on a damn fine post-hardcore record from the mid-1990s; the sort of thing Jawbox or Far might have put out. But hearing new, contemporary songs of this type is terribly odd, but in the most welcome way possible. Will Murphy