Despite the themes of social decay and destruction, and despite the spit-in-your-eye punk onslaught of the music, ‘Crime/Compass’ is not a work of pure nihilism. The lyrics tackle issues such as ecological disaster, societal breakdown, alcohol abuse, self-loathing and disaffection with poetic phrasing and reflective thought. These guys actually care about these issues. Anchoress may not be the first intellectual punk band in history, but you’ll be hard pressed to find such a stark contrast between the blistering, steel-edged assault of the music and the beautiful intelligence of the prose.
Anchoress delivers its punk at a break-neck pace, and they rarely lift their foot off the pedal. Backed by stalwarts Ricky Castanedo (bass) and Chris Lennox-Aasen (drums), guitarist Keenan Federico leads the charge with a primarily hardcore bent, but occasionally displaying a more metalcore leaning (e.g. on “The Rumrunner Blues”) or even math rock in the case of “Capture”.
Then there is singer/lyricist, Rob Hoover, whose half-screeched vocal delivery is so ferociously intense that you feel he is reaching out through the speakers and throttling you. But then you realize he is not angry at you, he is angry at the state of our world and our society. On “Disaster Porn”, for example, he disdainfully observes the perverse pleasure that we take in witnessing our own destruction:
Build up our cities and watch them fall down
Build up our lives and watch them fall down
And on the TV, we’re watching them burn
And on “Break the Dam, Release the River” he calls out our Prime Minister for his poor efforts to address climate change:
Oh Stephen, how you’ve failed us all
Like a guard dog howling at the lights passing in the night
While thieves break in through the back, you’re missing the point
The band’s entire toolbox of skills is put to work on “Torrential”. It starts with the slow throbbing of bass that leads into Hoover’s spoken word delivery of the song’s one and only verse. He tells us that rain falls on the unloved, but if you reach out and take a risk you might find love because, after all, “bad weather can’t follow you everywhere.” This is followed by a progressive, post-rock instrumental lead by Federico. But then a musical deluge is unleashed, lashing down on you like the heaviest pineapple express to ever hit the coast of BC (it’s torrential, you see?). Hoover repeats the verse in a scream, but this time the emphasis is on the rain that will be heaped on you as one of the miserable unloved. Brilliant stuff really.
Although intended to be one coherent album, in its physical form it is divided into two EP’s (‘Crime’ and ‘Compass’, respectively). This is probably a good thing because the pounding music drains you physically and the demanding lyrics drain you emotionally, so six tracks in one sitting is about all you can take.Close Review
Anchoress’ new vinyl Crime & Compass is an album 84 years in the making; a tale that starts with standout track “The Rumrunner Blues”. “That song was written about my great grandfather,“ explains lead vocalist Rob Hoover. “In my parents’ house my mom has the front-page clipping from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, back in, I think April of 1930. It’s basically this account of how the Coast Guard had a run-in with a rumrunner, and how they fired shots at him, but he got away.”
While the most bullet riddled, it wasn’t the last treacherous step on the way to Crime & Compass on vinyl. The band originally self-released the songs just prior to signing to their label File Under: Music, at which point it was tucked away for safe keeping while their first record, Set Sail, was given a proper release. It’s brief stay in the real world earned it strong praise; The Punk Site gave it four stars calling it “one of hardcore punk’s best albums of the year so far,” and The Georgia Straight observed, “Hoover is a more accomplished lyricist than 90 percent of the stooges who scored invites to last year’s Warped Tour and… Federico has no interest in limiting himself to three garage-punk chords.”
While a risky move to pull the record, it’s aged well with time. The band took the opportunity to touch up, remastered, and re-sequence the songs; the result is a tighter sounding record, with Hoover’s rapid fire vocals ringing clear over the pounding rhythm section of drummer Christopher Lennox-Aasen and bassist Ricky Castanedo, and Keenan Federico’s angular guitar skills. With an opportunity for a second life the record was re-released in 2014 more in line with it’s intended form as two separate digital EPs – Crime and Compass.
Hoover explains, “Crime & Compass is the balance in all things, the duality of the human condition. Crime is a stylized sojourn through some of the darkness that covers our lives. It’s about dealing with situations that we can’t understand while trying to stay sane. Compass is the whimsy and all the little joys that make life wonderful. It’s our dreams and the knowledge that however bad things may seem, they won’t always be; with perseverance we shall overcome.” Splitting the original record into two digital EPs allowed the themes to stand out on their own, but ultimately come back to the physical world as side A and side B on August 15th on their new vinyl from File Under: Music.
Anchoress will be heading out from Vancouver to tour through the fall of 2014 in support of Crime & Compass. Their live shows are as intense as their music is deep and are sure to leave an impression that will bring you back to take a trip to the horrors of The Lizard Lounge on “Fangs”, or spinning Sunbros again again again as you dig through the poems within poems that make up Crime & Compass.Close Bio
Anchoress’ new vinyl Crime & Compass is an album 84 years in the making; a tale that starts with standout track “The Rumrunner Blues”. “That song was written about my great grandfather,“ explains lead vocalist Rob Hoover. “In my parents’...
Ride The Tempo Despite the themes of social decay and destruction, and despite the spit-in-your-eye punk onslaught of the music, ‘Crime/Compass’ is not a work of pure nihilism. The lyrics tackle issues such as ecological disaster, societal breakdown, ...