1905

Voice

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    8
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For the two decades preceding the appearance of 1905, Washington, D.C., claimed one of the most interesting, diverse punk scenes in America. And 1905 continued that long tradition on Voice, which represents the genre at its best. The bandmembers declined to include their names. An instruction on the insert encourages everyone to tape the songs for their friends rather than buying the album. Even better, the music itself refuses to color inside the lines, even the lines laid down by the original punk movement. A four-piece, 1905 does not eschew tight musicianship, for one, even when it could easily slack off without tipping its hand, considering the shards of shrapnel tossed at the listener's ears. And the group did not avoid writing songs, though Voice also proves more than happy to chew up its melodies and spit them out in gnarled pieces. It is a fearless album that exists somewhere at the edge of thrash and hardcore, complete with scabrous vocals, rapid-fire tempos (the machine-gun, tribal drumming is truly outstanding), abrupt tonal shifts, and waves of aggression. But what places the album a cut or two above the field is its willingness to take chances. The songs are dotted with complex and fascinatingly enigmatic avant-garde melodies, often in haunting minor keys and, when carried by the female half of the coed vocal team, eerily penetrating. But there are also stretches of acoustic respite ("Quote," "Missing"), industrial-strength folk music with politically strident content that reframes the jarring sonic dissonance of the rest of the album, as well as a piano tone poem ("Silhouette"), a spoken word piece ("A Conversation"), and even Middle Eastern-flavored guitar phrasing on the album's strongest track ("Side By Side"). Anarchy given a good name.