by Brian J. Audette
“Tongue tied/I grind my teeth/It’s bleak” goes the second verse of “Bleak” from Super Thief’s self-titled EP, and while frontman Cody Kimbell [full disclosure: Cody sometimes contributes to Ovrld] is anything but tongue tied and the aggressive guitars are not quite the grinding of teeth, this latest release from this Austin punk outfit is definitely bleak, but in a good way. While listeners of Super Thief’s 2013 full length debut Faded will likely notice an immediate shift in tone and intensity, if you’ve seen this band live over the last year then you know exactly what to expect. More accurately reflective of their loud and lively performances, Super Thief eschews the post punk playfulness and stylistic schizophrenia of their debut, becoming a more focused, stripped down, and ultimately heavier album that musically and lyrically ventures into some dark territory.
Bookended by two mostly instrumental pieces featuring excerpts from dialog about money, work, and doing what you love, the rest of the album almost seems to ask “Really? Maybe you tell me how that’s supposed to work?” The acerbic “Plot” seems to bemoan the rigors of middle class work-buy-repeat culture, scored with a classic hardcore riff and lines like “These plots won’t last/Our bones tell nothing of our grasp.” The aforementioned “Bleak” is short on lyrics but heavy on sound, built on a driving rhythm like a heavier version of what one can hear on their debut LP, complete with a guitar solo, made whole by Kimbell’s anguished, straining vocals.
“Needle Fix” opens with another brief dialog clip and then explodes with the psychotic fury of staccato guitars. It’s a song about addiction, whether drugs, booze, or (as the opening clip seems to suggest) the internet and about self-destructive coping highlighted by the refrain of “I … medicate.” It’s the perfect set up for the album’s longest track “Copacetic,” a fatalistic tune built on an anxious bass line, smothered in guitar noise. “I’m depleted…/The pity party’s on and I think it’s getting worse” opens the song via Kimbell’s scratchy screams as the music illustrates a state of mind that is at once frustrated and self-loathing while also resigned to futility with the repeated line “I saw it coming anyway.” The penultimate track “Dementia 5” lives in a similar space and roars on in full hardcore fury, before wrapping the album with the second half of the opening dialog clip in “Buying Drugs”.
There’s a lot of frustration in the lyrics of Super Thief and the music perfectly complements it with a well honed, frenetic guitar assault. I had praised Super Thief’s first LP for its lack of any one obvious “sound” for the album, but this latest EP is just the opposite. While certainly more intense, Super Thief has a definite musical and thematic identity, but it doesn’t suffer for it at all. This is hardcore the way I like it and it’s obvious that this group’s previous experimentations have only made them more capable of doing it so well. Really the only bad thing I have to say about Super Thief is that at 16 minutes long it’s still too short. I need more! I guess this is why the “repeat all” button exists.
Super Thief will be releasing the cassette debut of this self-titled EP at Beerland this Wednesday (1/28)