Gentle Grip

Public Practice

(CD - Wharf Cat Records #WCR 099CD)

Review by Fred Thomas

Brooklyn art punks Public Practice formed out of the ashes of the dreamy Beverly and the more jagged WALL, fusing elements of both in their new project. Their earliest songs were angular rock that called on the lawless spirit of the late-'70s downtown New York scene as well as the nervous push of dancey post-punk bands like the Delta 5 and A Certain Ratio. The group's first full-length offering, Gentle Grip, follows suit with a pastiche of familiar reference points making up their rambunctious, danceable songs. The same uneasy sort of funk explored by the Talking Heads and Essential Logic can be heard in the rubbery bass line and spare percussion of tracks like "Underneath" and "Hesitation," with vocalist Sam York weaving tense harmonies around skeletal song structures. Faster songs like "Compromised" lean more into the mutant punk of bands like Suburban Lawns. The entirety of Gentle Grip is a series of interlocking nods to different influences, all of which stop firmly around 1980. The intriguing aspect of the album comes in seeing how the group stitches these influences together, interjecting a Siouxsie and the Banshees-esque guitar lead here, a Suicide-modeled vocal inflection there, or locking for a moment into a rhythm that recalls the Bush Tetras. The songs are carried with energy and control, and even while the influences can be glaring, Gentle Grip is so well constructed -- and so fun -- that it stands on its own.

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