Tuesday, April 5, 2011
[theprp.com] Flux Outside, the third LP from hyperkinetic Knoxvillians Royal Bangs, goes off like a wind-up toy, rattling through 50 genre-eradicating minutes before collapsing into a heap. Matching the spastic rush of math rock with the heft of 1970s arena-fillers and a bit of Tennessee-born Southern boogie, the Bangs' shapeshifting whiplash-prog certainly gets the blood going. And this surging LP is their most spirited, sense-assaulting work to date.
Every sound on Flux Outside-- and there are many, coming in from all angles-- gleams, buffed to an electroid sheen. Frontman Ryan Schafer, who produced the Bangs' previous LPs, turns over the production duties to ex-Sparklehorse member Scott Minor, with indie superproducer Dave Fridmann handling the mixing. Minor and Fridmann help deepen the band's drums and tease out some alluringly glitzy new textures without altering the dynamic scramble that powered 2009's fine Let It Beep. For all the instrumental bombardment, the Bangs manage to maintain order, never veering too far off course even when they're taking sharp curves at 100 MPH. The record's got a constant forward motion, and its 50 minutes seem to zip by in double-time.
The Bangs' greatest strength isn't so much the almost mechanistic turn-on-a-dime cohesion of their future rock, but how they manage to wrangle their pristine assault into appealing shapes. Highlight "Silver Steps" zig-zags its way into a rousing straightahead chorus, and while "Bull Elk" comes on like a tornado, Schafer shouts out its hook from the eye of the storm. For all its alien textures, Flux Outside is a generous, sweaty, markedly human record, powered as much by groovy southern-rock melodies as the steely synth shrapnel that seems to jut out from everywhere. It's a rare thing indeed to hear a musical unit nail that midpoint between those frequently oppositional tendencies time and again. Still, there are times when the fast-moving currents in the Royal Bangs sound cause them to barrel through their hooks, lessening their impact and causing the distinctions between one ripcord track to the next to blur a bit. But the Bangs seem to place every drum stutter, keyboard whirr, and Schafer howl on equal footing, a nice testament to the tightness and democracy of their musical unit, so pushing the songwriting further to the forefront could come at the risk of toppling the delicate balance the not-so-delicate Flux Outside achieves. May they never learn to sit still.
— Paul Thompson, April 5, 2011
Posted by Dan Goldin at 1:43 AM