Ethers

Ethers

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It's easy (and usually wrong) to call any band made up of members of already popular or known bands a supergroup, but for lovers of high-energy garage punk with the kind of hooks that tear tender flesh, Chicago's Ethers might actually deserve the application of the term. They are made up of members of really good bands like Heavy Times and Radar Eyes, and they bring all the skills they learned over a decade of playing and recording to bear in Ethers. Their self-titled debut rings with confidence, and it should. The group wrote a bunch of killer songs and knocks the absolute stuffing out of them. Bo Hansen and Russell Calderwood's guitars are wiry, razor-sharp, and nonstop churning noise, Matt Rolin's drumming is powerful and spare, and Mary McKane's overdriven Farfisa organ rips and roils through the mix like a jagged machete. Put Hansen's pleading vocals over the top, add McKane's harmonies (and occasional lead), and it comes together like the work of a band whose members have been playing together for years. Along with that, it has the spark of a brand-new band, which is the kind of combination that leads to a great record. Almost every song feels like it could have been plucked from the album and made into a single; the hooks are that strong and the performances are dramatically charged. Most of the album is amped-up and speaker-rattling garage punk with tracks like the pounding "Empty Hours" and the rip-roaring "Patient Life" featuring Ethers pushing themselves to Wipers-esque extremes. They also know when to tease back on the gas a little, and songs like the chiming "Carry What You Kill" show they can still be intense without burying the needle in the red, while tracks like "Party Girls vs. War Dept." have some nice melancholy feels built into the melody and the sad organ chords. These moments of diversity only make the rest of the album sound more impressive, and Ethers is truly that. It may be their debut, but it puts most other bands plying a similar trade to shame, thanks to how good the songs are and how convincingly the quartet puts them across.

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