Glue’s New LP is a Testament to the Strength and Creativity of Austin Punk

by Bram Howard


Glue have always been something of an enigma to me. They’re this fantastic local punk band who put on an amazing and chaotic show, but it always seems to be the case that out of nowhere they’ll pop up on some lineup at Barracuda or something, play a sick show, then disappear into the aether for months. They’re like a rare phenomenon that you have to be on the lookout for, otherwise you miss them, and have to start the seeking all over again. With all this in mind, I was stoked to find out that they’re releasing a self-titled mini LP here in June, and jumped at the opportunity to talk about it.

About the only things I can say about their background is they’re members of a bunch of other bands (Iron Youth, Blotter, Breakout, Recide, Creamers), and have an incredible stage performance. The lead singer will hang from rafters and jump into the crowd as the band’s powerful, buzzing, tension-building brand of hardcore explodes around him. Listening to this brand new release really captures that sound, and is further evidence of how present and innovative Austin’s punk scene is.

The album opens with my personal favorite track “Hunger,” which throws the listener right into the center of what this band is all about. After a brief bit of feedback, a steady beat and repetitious, powerful guitar melody flares out before the whole band launches into a hardcore d-beat, spinning the song into a careening sprint of sound. The lead singer’s strained, almost choked vocals are a near perfect successor to Bad Brains’ H.R., with some fuzziness and aggression that can only come from an era that brought us bands like S.H.I.T. and Ceremony. The song alternates between these steady, guitar-driven fragments, and speedy, chaotic choruses, then ends on a rumbling, shrieking solo coda that caps with a sustained screech, casting the listener aside to wait for the rest of the album.

The guitar work found on “Hunger” sets the stage for what makes this album interesting to me. Classic hardcore has a kind of speedy, crank-this-out-full-tilt-no-matter-what approach to guitars, which is all well and good, and thoroughly worth appreciating, but Glue keep the sound and allows the guitars to flow. They’re articulate in their execution, but still retain that simplistic yet effective churning sound that evokes the explosive energy hardcore carries.

“Hammered Down” is steady, sustained, and kept within limits, allowing the rumbling bass lead-in– a commonly bumbling stream of low-end tones, jerking you into the the song– to come to fruition, whisking you off your feet, but not taking anything away from its significance.  The guitars have an exact role in every change in range, pairing with the vocals as a buzzy backdrop to the melody belted out by the frontman.  You can hear the influence of these frantic, head-bobbing melodies that came out of the early ‘80s, but they’re focused on, implemented, used to their fullest, creating rock ‘n’ roll with a mohawk feel that hits the sweet spot between all out aggression and musical technique.

It’s this that sets Glue apart as a band, but it’s their vibe that keeps you feeling right at home, and as you hit the midway point in the album with “Farm Icon A” and “Farm Icon B”– twin nine second transitional tracks that are basically noise experiments using masses of feedback and echoed vocals– you are enveloped in this mixture of worlds where noise and punk join together beautifully, and everything that makes both of these genres great can be found in one place. Punk as a mindset, where every molecule of what you’re doing is pushback against something, seemed almost guaranteed to merge with noise one day, as noise is basically a challenge to what one might define as music, or even aurally enjoyable. To bring these together is to create a hybrid of two decade-spanning attitudes of musical rebellion.

After “Recognitions” ignites more steady, hardcore-cruising tempos and meandering guitars, the latter portion of the album is an exhibition of Glue’s slower, tension-building format that initially drew me in. To me there have always been two core facets of hardcore that have fed into what its overall feel is: the speedy, d-beat, circle-pit inducing portions that release all the energy that your intended audience obviously has stored up, and the slow, stomping, gritted-teeth moments that form these releases.

If you take “Testimony”, the closer, as an example, you see a lead-up of rock-indebted, jamming guitar melodies that shove you around, despite their mocking catchiness, before you hit the midway point where another rumbling, drum-rolled, shake-you-by-the-shoulders bridge tosses you into a massive, speedy, anger-fueled tempest. The song then gives you a couple of brief moments of steady, shoulder-bumping downtime– bisected by another roiling hardcore bridge– before ending on a refrain of the opening melody.

What Glue, and this album, represent to me is what’s making punk, and just generally aggressive garage music, relevant and innovative in our age of massive access to all things that have come before. With a knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of the threads that have led to this moment comes a drive to find what can be built upon, and I think that Glue, and many other bands in our little scene here, are doing exactly what a lot of us are looking for. This elusive band that flits in and out of the Austin stage so casually presents us with an approach to punk that indicates a drive to create, and create just for the sake of finding something new. They have succeeded wonderfully with this album, and keep me excited for what new sounds might be produced by this consortium of artists we get to experience here.

Bram Howard is a music writer living in Austin, TX. He also plays in Leche.