Germ House

Showing Symptoms

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Following a cross-country move from Boston to Las Cruces, New Mexico, married musicians Justin Hubbard and Tara McManus quickly shifted gears, starting up new trio Far Corners together in a similar, but perhaps more noise-damaged form as their previous garage punk act Turpentine Brothers. While Far Corners was coming into being, Hubbard began recording at home in a similarly lo-fi sound, calling the project Germ House. His home recordings were more tune-minded, but coated his searching melodies in swells of noisy tape and guitar barrages. Months went by and Germ House slowly developed from a cathartic home recording project into a full-fledged band, including McManus again on drums as well as bassist Joe Atoub. Debut full-length Showing Symptoms collects the best of Hubbard's home recordings as well as sessions put to tape at a slightly more technically advanced studio. The ten tracks here all bristle with compressed cassette graininess and the audible struggle in Hubbard's songwriting between abrasive, bad-attitude punk experimentation and the optimistic jangliness of the Flying Nun roster. Tunes like "Whoever Said This Should Be Fun" sound like the wildest interludes from early Guided by Voices albums, translated into the scuzzy language of early Cleveland proto-punk acts like the Electric Eels. Elsewhere "40 to Stay" channels the Wipers while more melodic tunes like "I Can't Stand Neon" and "Cold and Uptight" lean more on jangling, wandering guitars, sounding in their best moments like lost demos from a far more agitated version of the Bats. Showing Symptoms nicely toes the line between introspective punk songwriting and more aggressive fare, and the woolen feel of its home recording production allows its various moods and tantrums to gel perfectly.

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