Manners And Praise
posted on 11/2009 By:
Gritty. I can’t think of a more succinct, accurate way to sum up Manners and Praise than with that single word. Fight Amp hail from South Jersey, and they’ve spent most of their six-odd-year career playing shows in and around Philadelphia. Anyone who’s spent much time in Philly knows that it’s a tough, pessimistic town, and its urban filth and nasty attitude radiate from this band. Manners and Praise, their second album for the excellent Translation Loss Records, is brutal noise rock/punk played with single minded focus and very real intensity.
Here’s an easy litmus test for determining how you’ll react to Fight Amp: Do you enjoy Brooklyn’s Unsane? If so, this album should be a no-brainer purchase. That’s not to say that Fight Amp are a ripoff or a tribute band; they’ve clearly done their homework on Melvins, Black Flag, The Jesus Lizard, and various and sundry other abusive rock bands of the last twenty years. On the whole, though, the format for most of Manners and Praise’s thirteen tracks is very Unsanely—two-to-four-minute accumulations of slightly tricky grooves and biting, dissonant rock riffage.
Fight Amp have correctly identified the rhythm section as the driving force in their chosen style, and holy hell do these boys bring in the bottom end. Bassist Jon Dehart’s über-gravelly bass tone coats even the band’s more restrained moments in knee-deep sludge, and Mike Howard’s tom-heavy skinsmanship is equally propulsive during both speedy segments and the band’s miles-deep grooves. Phil Cope (Baroness, Kylesa) delivers an absolutely perfect sound for Manners and Praise; the guitars sound bristling and barely in control at times, but the band as a whole never gets mired in their own murk.
And that sense of just-barely-holding-it-together is crucial to what Fight Amp are trying to do here. These guys draw just as much from a punk-rock sense of unease as they do from metal’s sonic firepower. Their songs are documents of the frustrations regular people face as they go about their lives; Dehart and guitarist Mike McGinnis’s everyman vocals spin tales of quiet, grinding desperation and encroaching apathy. If Fight Amp relied on the grandiose and/or cartoonish lyrical themes that pervade so much metal, their messiness might be a drawback. Instead, it’s a boon.
Manners and Praise certainly isn’t going to blow anyone’s mind with its originality or artistic daring, but that fact doesn’t make the emotion it expresses any less genuine…or its riffment any less suffocating. Fight Amp will appeal to anyone who’s enjoyed recent releases by Unsane, Kowloon Walled City, or fellow Philthydelphians Pissed Jeans, and I could see this disc making some dark-horse appearances on 2009’s year-end lists.
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