The saxophone made a comeback as a punk instrument in the late 2010s, with bands like Priests using its braying tones as a badge of rebellion and a connection to the punk and no wave acts of the '70s and '80s. Still, few bands were as committed to 21st century skronk as Blank Square, who deliver heroic doses of sax on their debut album, Animal I. Early in the album, they prove they know their history, evoking DNA and James Chance and the Contortions with jagged cuts like "One Way" and "Bangers." Later, Blank Square demonstrate that within their niche, they've got a surprising amount of range, spanning the relatively straight-ahead territory of "Exit Saint" and "Youth Trash" to the ranting "Fuc'd" to "Bad Acid," a mix of kitsch and noise that pairs backward sound effects with jazz that's not so much free as it is unhinged. Experimental moments like these make for some of Animal I's most exciting moments. "Empty Head" is one of Blank Square's catchiest and most expressive tracks, as the band generates a formidable amount of chaos in search of peace; "Quark" is dangerously sexy, serving up equal amounts of noise and sleaze as it moves from lounge-punk to cacophony. "Charmer," meanwhile, sets a haunted mood with a moody prologue before hurtling into shouted and whispered recriminations. It all makes for a potent, pungent debut from a band who knows how to build on a side of punk that doesn't get revisited often enough.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares