Published Apr 06, 2020Chicago four-piece noise-rock band Melkbelly have returned, after two years of touring, with PITH, an angsty weekend daydream on a humid, summer morning. From song composition to its track arrangement, listening to this album feels like cracking open a zine scrawled with Grimm-like poetry.
It's a collection of full-length tunes and short vignettes, like "Sickeningly Teeth" and "Take H2O." The first song, "THC," coaxes you closer with its sing-song hook, then grabs you by the wrist, thrusting you into the album at the heels of James Wetzel feverishly dancing around his snare and Liam Winters' incessant bass. The album dips midway into an intermission through "Kissing Under Some Bats," the longest song on the record, creating a space for the listener to revel in five minutes of pure noise before carrying on.
Miranda Winters' lyrics don't get lost among the "collection of rare Russian tube mics," which were placed around the studio to amplify Melkbelly's noise. Lines like "loaded up and drove out to the softer roads in Michigan" in title track "LCR" are glued to catchy melodies, which have a mesmerizing sing-along effect. But catchy riffs are only the cusp of Melkbelly's musicality. Miranda and brother-in-law Bart Winters' guitar lines cheekily complement song titles such as the lumbering "dun DUN DUN DUN" in "Little Bug" or the series of spooky minor thirds in "Kissing Under Some Bats."
Because of the tightly cohesive kick-off in the first couple songs, the remaining album feels slightly haphazard in comparison. Next to the atomic metaphor of "Sickeningly Teeth," "Mr. Coda" and "Stone Your Friends" deliver a hurried assemblage of imagery that don't feel like they fully contribute to the album as a whole. Nonetheless, they roll down the road which eventually lands the listener at "Flatness."
The final track opens with sentimental chords like looking over the shoulder at the journey about to finish. Miranda laments "I don't have the patience to understand the shape of flatness," repeatedly, until it begins to sound like a question. Even when the music flattens into silence, even after the album ends, it echoes in your head reaching past the sweltering daydream.
In these current unpredictable times, Melkbelly thrashes against a feeling of grief, a decaying normal, and the shapes of stagnation. PITH is an album that old and new listeners alike can sink their teeth into and ride out a season of summer days holed up in their bedrooms. (Wax Nine)