California punk quartet Plague Vendor bury the needle on their mighty sophomore LP for Epitaph Records. The group made an auspicious debut in 2014 powering through ten songs in 18 minutes on the brief but entertaining Free to Eat. The thrashy, no-frills garage punk they put to tape was a pretty direct representation of the frenetic live set they'd spent the previous five years honing in West Coast basements and clubs. Their aptly titled follow-up, 2016's Bloodsweat, is a fearsome collection with a generally darker tone and some subversive studio polish that helps it leap out of the speakers without compromising their minimalist approach. In other words, Plague Vendor remain a thrashy, no-frills garage punk outfit, but tweaked for maximum volume and power. Recorded and produced by Stuart Sikes (Cat Power, the Walkmen), Bloodsweat has a visceral, overdriven feel that works best on streamlined songs like the creepy maritime punk opener "Anchor to Ankles" and the repetitive thump of "Credentials." Elsewhere, they embrace a newfound moodiness on the dark and dynamic standout "Ox Blood." Singer Brandon Blaine has a good command of his rock "n" roll phrasing, alternating between a rhythmic and raw Iggy-like swagger and a more detached post-punk bellow. There are times when his ragged rawk tenor comes a little too close to aping garage revivalist forebears like Jack White, but then again Plague Vendor aren't necessarily trying to rewrite rock's rulebook, but simply add their own chapter. There's plenty here to enjoy at a high volume, and at twice the length of their debut, Bloodsweat practically comes off as a double album.
by Timothy Monger