Oddly specific as this is, 2017 might be the year for semi-defunct post-hardcore bands from the early 2000s to release long-awaited followups. At The Drive-In dropped In•ter a•li•a in May after a 17-year gap. Before the news of Jesse Lacey’s alleged history of sexual exploitation saw the band being rightly cancelled, Brand New released Science Fiction. Even Quicksand released Interiors nearly two decades after their last broadcast. Now, almost out of the blue, Glassjaw who, aside from a few scattered EPs, have been silent since 2002’s Worship and Tribute have quietly released Material Control.
Glassjaw were never as influential as ATD-I or inspired quite the level of devotion that Brand New did, but their brand of noisy, unpredictable punk is hugely significant to the likes of Jamie Lenman and his ilk. Their third LP has been the stuff of myth not unlike The Avalanches’ Wildflower or Guns N Roses’ Chinese Democracy. With so much weight of expectation, it’s hard to imagine how the record could stand on its own two feet. While it does contain some deep-seated issues that it never really shakes, it does have a sense of self that suggests there’s still more petrol in the tank.
The tempo and intensity of the record are fairly consistent. It’s 110% with lots of emotion and fiddly math rock fills. Listen to ‘New White Extremity’ and you’ll get a fairly clear picture as to what you can expect here. The riffs are unhinged, stopping and starting without provocation, twisting and contorting on the dime. The rhythm section is pummelling with this thick, fuzzy bass annexing much of the mix for itself. Then you’ve Daryl Palumbo’s vocals which like the guitar veer all around without no clear path. As an opening, it is pretty much exactly what the band needs. It’s punchy and to the point, but also demonstrates that in spite of being on the sidelines for over a decade they can still hit with a lot of force. There are shades of Fall of Troy in the angularity of the music, Deftones in the vocals and the unpredictability of At The Drive-In. This is such a definitive and powerful statement of intent that matching it is incredibly difficult. Sadly, the rest of the album really can’t.
Part of the issue is that the album mostly works on one level. ‘Cut and Run’, ‘Bibleland 6’, and ‘Citizen’ are retreads of ‘New White Extremity’. Glassjaw makes the kind of music that thrives on unpredictability and to reiterate yourself over and over hampers the impact of what is otherwise actually quite good songwriting. The impact is dulled on every repeat hit. To their credit, there are some attempts at deviation. There are two instrumental songs, ‘Material Control’ and ‘Bastille Day’, which attempt to capture a vibe rather than be structured “songs”. These are solid experimentations with eastern drums and weird mixing, but despite that they don’t really stand out. The latter segues nicely into ‘Pompeii’, but that’s really all you can say about it. Also, it’s important to note that this is a 36-minute collection that fans have been waiting years to hear. These quirky instrumental passages simply don’t add much, and when viewed in the context of expectation only become more irksome.
On the whole, it is solid. There’s nothing terrible about it by any means. It is the kind of LP that an early Biffy Clyro would have put out. Twisty and tricksy and a bit all over the place, but a predominately enjoyable ride.