Local Music Reviews
Danger, Thy Calling
Street Date: 11.12
Backhand = Jeff Rosenstock + The Rats
Whether in live performance, on recording or plastered throughout their social media, there’s a youthful glee sewn into every piece that makes up Backhand; it’s fraternal and brash, cringey and nonchalant, irresponsible and very, very fun. You can hear it on “Everywhere Man,” the second track on the group’s newest EP, Danger, Thy Calling, which forgoes clarity and poise for the sake of capturing a boyish recklessness, terrified of a comfortable daily monotony and wildly flinging exhausted Talking Heads references around. But Backhand has very little time for self-aware sheepishness—there’s too many genres to try, too many grievances to air and too much life to fuck around with. Capturing that essence in a bottle is a highlight of their new EP and a succinct display of their musical talents.
A sort of B-side to Backhand’s Kiki Alarcron (released earlier this year), Danger, Thy Calling waves away the Alarcron album’s strict-punk grime and replaces it for a far more adventurous collection of tracks. “(Best Friend’s) Interlude” shows off these explorations most clearly by introducing groovier rhythms on guitar and bass from Jake and Mitch Owens, as well as gargling synthesizers filling up the background, which builds a song that is both pleasant and trying hard to be elevator music—no doubt a cute and goofy number when performed live. “Vegas Baby Showers” acts as a halfway point between the familiar Backhand sound and newer ventures, creating a track that is less keen on traditional structure. Instead, it aims at a musical cacophony to score the drunken, raging attempt at spoken word from Ben Owens, whose performance is so full-hearted it’s easy to get just as absorbed in the track as he is.
Acting as captain through the band’s tour of sounds, Ben carries Backhand with all the eccentricity and vibrance a front man should. “I think you think that I think differently / I think it’s funny that you think you’re supposed to think the same way,” he sings on “Think! Think! Think!,” savoring the twisting combination of words with a kinetic lawlessness. Across Danger, Thy Calling, his efforts to bring out the harmonious flavor that is Backhand expertly come together, making this material some of the group’s most exciting work.
It’s been a busy year for the Backhand boys—Danger, Thy Calling being their fourth EP of the year. Fortunately, it’s also been a prosperous one. It will be exciting to see where they ride this wave next—one can only hope it will be just as chaotic and just as fun. –Aidan Croft