Gather Scatter

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For all the hubbub that was made in the '90s over the power pop scene in Chicago (not to mention that alternative behemoth, the Smashing Pumpkins) the driving force in the windy city was rooted in the bands aligned with the seminal label Touch and Go, as well as anything that Steve Albini and his band of cohorts put their minds to. Funnily enough, however, the scene stayed on the fringe enough that very little of it got overbaked, maintaining a semblance of respectability and class. The problem was, however, that the stylistic aspects of underground Chicago never really got toyed with. They stayed as they were, almost laying dormant as the decade drew to a close. Not until the metal world decided to take the angular and math-induced sounds of Touch and Go (it would be fair to throw in a great many Dischord bands onto this list, but we are talking about a Chicago band here) and invent -- so to speak -- metalcore (which would spawn the questionable, at best, screamo scene) did the notions of such legends as Shellac and Slint get a second, updated viewing. Millions, existing firmly outside of that last decade of the 20th century, have managed to put together an album that not only pays immense homage to the sounds of "pure" indie Chicago, but -- amazingly -- fuse it with the stylistic developments that came afterwards thanks to the tinkering of highly technical metal nerds like Cave In or Botch. The opener, "Lest the Professor Catch Fire," is a prime example of the latter, a metalcore pummeller that is equaled only by the best established bands in the genre. Thankfully, Millions chooses not to devote all of their energy to such a sound, although they certainly have the chops to do so -- the band's rhythm section is a monster, and the guitar playing is at once a math metal monolith as well as a nod to the tech-death of Chuck Schuldiner; choosing to opt for a bit of "retro" is a welcome shift from track to track on Gather Scatter. Their obvious love of all things Chicago shines through on "View," which could have easily come out in 1995, as well as the fantastic "Pickpocket" and "Life Is Satisfactory," both of which manage to bridge not only the gaps between indie and metal, but Chicago and D.C. Sure, this album can sometimes seem like it exists out of time, parts of it resembling a capsule of Chicago at its angular peak, while other sections are a glorification of metalcore before it got co-opted by angsty teens with too much hair gel, but the truth is, these guys pull it off. Millions have the energy, the chops, and the knowledge to take the best of their recent musical ancestry and deliver an album that is visceral, complicated, and downright interesting to listen to.

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