Tough Age have reshaped themselves into a power-trio for their third LP ‘Shame’, as founder members Jarrett Samson (guitar/vocals) and Penny Clark (bass/vocals) have teamed up with drummer Jesse Locke (Century Palm, Simply Saucer) to rattle out their whip-cracking new album; a record that’s taut and wiry with little to no flab. ‘Shame’ is a rough ‘n’ ready affair that bristles with an impulsive, fidgeting nature. Guitars prick like the needled claws of a mischievous pack of kittens but without any of the cuteness. Whilst the fretwork pangs and convulses, there are moments where riffs explode with a chaotic fury – notably on the album’s closing eponymous track. Basslines intertwine with rapid drumming and when combined with the nervous-energy ripples of guitar, ‘Shame’ judders with a tightly wound urgency.
On the three piece’s Facebook page, you’ll spy a plaintive statement “not really punk at all”; it would appear the Toronto via Vancouver band don’t associate themselves with rock’s most caustic sub-genre. ‘Shame’ at times feels like a less abrasive take on Sonic Youth, certainly when it comes to the aforementioned album closer, which shares an acerbic DNA with ‘Daydream Nation’, whereas ‘Ghost’ jars and careers with the mechanical allure of Joy Division. ‘Me In Glue’s urgent delivery distils a (sorry Tough Age, you’re not going to like this next bit) punk leaning, mainly down to the song’s rampant, busting out the traps opening chords. Aside from the Canadian band’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it indie-rock, ‘Pageantry’ slows things down to an atmospheric crawl, where Clark’s bass throbs create a tense air of uncertainty. Across the album’s eight tracks Samson and Clark split their vocal duties but in both of their cases, the two vocalists are partially drowned out by the frantic swirl of elastic band-esque rock ‘n’ roll. Although the album’s appeal rests on the band’s raw and, what appears to be spontaneous approach to their craft.
Samson has laid down Tough Age’s intentions post ‘Shame’s release “keep playing music, keeping putting out music, tour, have fun, not get on each other’s nerves too much, and refuse to compromise our intentions”. Suffice to say, ‘Shame’ doesn’t sound like a record built on compromise – it’s foolhardy and all the better for it.
Words and Thoughts by Adam Williams
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