Dub Thompson

9 Songs

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At the time Dub Thompson recorded 9 Songs -- which, in actuality, has only eight tracks -- Matt Pulos and Evan Laffer were a couple of California dudes not yet in their twenties with terrific taste in music. The pair spent their high-school years absorbing the discographies of bands ranging from Can to This Heat to Big Black, and their debut album's shouty, elastic post-punk workouts show they can spit their influences back out with ease. 9 Songs is bookended by two of its most fiery tracks, "Hayward!" and "Pterodactyls," while the title track is a two-and-a-half-minute tour through Pulos and Laffer's fluent rapport on guitar and drums. As dynamic as the album's most explosive moments are, Dub Thompson's own personality comes to the fore when they don't follow their forebears' rulebooks so closely. "No Time" is a spooky, melancholy hybrid of dub reggae and psych pop that's as fascinating as it is unexpected, making the most of the horror-show organ contributed by Foxygen's Jonathan Rado (who also produced the album). "Dograces" is nearly as striking, juxtaposing a lanky, taunting groove with colorful bursts of keyboards in such a riveting way that even the lengthy elevator music-like coda can't kill its momentum. These songs are so ear-grabbing that they tend to make the rest of 9 Songs sound merely competent, though that's not entirely fair. Laffer and Pulos' range is impressive, spanning "Epicondyles"' moody study in tension and release, "Ash Wednesday"'s sardonic bounce, and the buzzy angst-pop of "Mono." The duo sells 9 Songs' rare pretty moments as convincingly as its outbursts, and if the album feels a bit scattered, it also showcases Dub Thompson's wide-ranging prowess. This is a promising debut with flashes of brilliance that shine even brighter considering Pulos and Laffer's youth when they made it.

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