Black Cross

Art Offensive

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    8
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Ever since the too-brief reign of the great Squirrel Bait, Louisville, KY, has always been a place where punky aggression and cerebral artsiness have coexisted. (Remember that the Squirrel Bait offshoot Slint, who single-handedly invented the entire post-rock concept, were from Louisville). The first full-length by Black Cross continues this tradition, although they're closer to the Squirrel Bait tradition (they even have Squirrel Bait's singer, Peter Searcy, offering backing vocals and cello) than to the more wide-ranging groups that followed. These 12 brief songs -- not a one breaks the three-minute barrier, and the whole album's over in barely 26 minutes -- are short, sharp, shocks of hardcore aggro-thrash; all buzzsaw guitars and whiplash start-stop rhythms that occasionally veer into unexpected directions and time signatures. There's a vague pop sensibility to several songs, particularly the Hüsker Dü-like "Black Market Cigarettes" and "Gift to the SBA," and singer Rob Pennington is adept at shifting from a hoarse bark to a more melodic croon that at times recalls, of all people, Howard Devoto in the very early days of the Buzzcocks. Art Offensive is an enjoyable mix of pop, punk and noise that suggests even better things to come.

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