Try Self Defense Family’s ‘Try Me’ | review

self-defense-family-try-me
(Deathwish, Inc.)

It can’t be easy being a fan of the New York based post-hardcore outfit formerly known as End of a Year.  Just keeping track of the various names used by this enigmatic, much discussed outfit would prove challenging enough, but factor in the multitude of musicians now involved with the band and things get very confusing very quickly.  Although apparently setting out to confound listeners and even challenge the very notion of what it means to be a band, Try Me, their first release as Self Defense Family, suggests that great things may well be on the horizon.

Just as the band itself is difficult to pin down in terms of name and personnel, their music is interesting enough to defy easy categorisation.  Drawing primarily from post-hardcore and art-rock textures, post-punk’s sense of rhythm and repetition, and having a sound described by the band themselves as sounding like “Built To Spill covering Killing Joke,” Try Me sounds very much like an album influenced by the very best bits of my record collection (Slint, Fugazi, Sonic Youth, and more) without sounding in any way derivative.

Lead single “Turn The Fan On,” streamed online in advance of release along with the rest of the record, opts to eschew the musical heaviness of many post-hardcore acts in favour of a more considered approach focusing on delivering a real emotional punch.  Personal highlights include the female vocal performance on “Mistress Appears At A Funeral,” perhaps the most conventional track on the album but offering a moment of mournful calm in an otherwise tumultuous record, and “Apport Birds” with its shared male/female vocal duties and lyrical theme of a nagging sense of loss and loneliness.

Also included in the tracklisting is a two part interview with a former actress in the adult movie industry known as Angelique.  While these interviews are interesting and engaging on the first listen they, being around twenty minutes in length each, only serve to detract from the quality of the album on repeat listens.  This is something of a shame and is the one slight niggle I have with an otherwise terrific record.  A sympathetic musical accompaniment to these interviews (seemingly well within the capability of Self Defense Family) would no doubt have added immeasurably to the replay value of these interviews but, as they are, both feel somewhat out of place here.

This is another winner from indie record label Deathwish Inc. Dynamic without being jarring, melodic without relying on pop hooks, Try Me is a complex, challenging, record that only truly reveals itself upon repeat listens.  Sadly the same can’t be said of the interview sections; you’ll probably find yourself skipping them in favour of the next excellent song after one listen.

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About John Stubley

John Stubley
John Stubley is a part-time Associate Professor of English, and full-time repository for pointless trivia. Holding rather worthless degrees in Media and Popular Culture, and 18th Century English Literature, he now fills his time by spouting forth opinions on everything that may conceivably be referred to as Pop Culture to anyone who will listen, and many who won't.