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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Album Review: Ex Friends - Twisted Around

Album Rating: A-
As is true with most music, it's possible to make a lot of wild guesses about the deeper meanings hidden within Twisted Around. Ex Friends could be commenting on the live-fast, die-hard nature of punk music with five songs that, back to back, take less than nine minutes to blaze through. It's entirely possible that the band is concerned with today's racial stereotypes, as we can arguably see from the repeated line "Waiting for the world to see you in your full complexity" in the opening track "Model Minority." Based on this interpretation, it seems the song as a whole might be a bold statement which attempts to bridge gaps between racial groups and let every group be seen in a full, three-dimensional light. Maybe "West Chester Nuclear Winter," a cover of lead singer Joel Tannenbaum's old band Plow United, is a bittersweet display of emotion regarding the hiatus of Plow United (and the band's subsequent reuniting) and how this affects the present and future of Ex Friends. One can also try to come up with numerous interpretations of the two lines of "Vexed Question" - "You've been tested, and been found wanting / you better try again." What kind of testing did the subject go through, what does he want, how can he try again? It can be understood in so many different ways, all of which may hold some value.

Or maybe Twisted Around is simply a punk band having a good time. And for all the potentially bullshit interpretations one can come up with, it's likely that Ex Friends just want any listeners to partake in whatever joy the band felt writing and recording the EP. What's great about Twisted Around, though, is it can satisfy both people just looking to headbang along to some blisteringly fast punk and people who take time to appreciate all the elements in a punk release. Tannenbaum, no stranger to the punk scene himself, knows how to craft excellent, evocative lyrics. For example, the line "The flower girl was that homeless guy, the one that everybody likes" in "Punk Rock Wedding, Punk Rock Divorce" is absolutely fitting to the style of music the band plays. It's ridiculous - try imagining some grizzled old guy in rags tossing petals to crowds of people - and yet it's a perfect line.

Most importantly, though, the musicianship is great. The guitars are fast and loud, the drums make quite a lot of use of the ride and crash cymbals, and the phlegm rattling around in Tannenbaum's throat suits the music perfectly (especially his moan at the beginning of "Punk Rock Wedding, Punk Rock Divorce"). "Vexed Question" showcases a fun solo alongside a rapid bassline and some semblance of harmonizing vocals, and much like the lyrics, the actual music fits excellently with the style of punk the band plays. Most of the repetition evident on Ex Friends' first EP has been ironed out, and though this EP is shorter than the first one it still manages to feel more complete and varied.

When all is said and done, this is a fantastic punk release. It's still missing something which keeps it from being even better - it's difficult to describe, but the EP still feels somewhat incomplete. However, Twisted Around is an excellent EP which should make people excited for the band's first full-length, in the works at the time of writing. It's fun, it's fast, and it makes for an enjoyable experience - and there's not much else any punk band really needs. And while the various analyses of the music may or may not actually be accurate or relevant, the fact that they're possible is a testament to the quality of Ex Friends' latest work.

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EP Stream

Tracklist:
1. Punk Rock Wedding Punk Rock Divorce
2. Rainy Season
3. Vexed Question
4. Model Minority
5. West Chester Nuclear Winter (Plow United)

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