His Absence Is a Blessing

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This excellent vinyl-only EP forged a lengthy, fruitful alliance with fellow Montana boy and jack-of-all-tirades Steve Albini. Recorded in a day, Albini does what he does best here as an engineer. He lets the tape roll and captures the band in their purest form. This partnership was the second biggest turning point in the band's career (the loss of guitarist/singer Joel Phelps after '94 being the biggest, for good and bad). "Scruffy Tumor" features some great deadpan vocals and scythe-sharp lyrics from Andy Cohen: "And you know that sometimes I feel like taking my time/ And you know if you don't like it you can suck me/ I'm in my prime." The raucous, anthemic "No Revolution" dates from Cohen and Tim Midgett's days in the short-lived Ein Heit. A remake of L'ajre's "Pearl Harbor" is the highlight amongst highlights, a nervous blast with Phelps' about-to-snap vocals leading the way. Pearl Harbor indeed -- the guitars overlap and divebomb, with everyone franctically joining in for the first line of the chorus: "Somebody should push you back down where you came from." If that doesn't increase your heart rate enough, the last seconds consist of all guitars simultaneously screeching into what you could perhaps call slide-bombing; the frets on each of the guitars must have required remedy from a firehose. Though the band would release two great records the following year, His Absence is the best of the Phelps-era band, if only by a hair. The EP is included in its entirety on 1998's Even a Blind Chicken Finds a Kernel of Corn Now and Then.