A+ A-

Pink Muscles - "The Signal" album review

Back in March, I got a request to do an album review for an upcoming album. This got buried under other work stuff, which can be easy for me to do. Anyway, I found it again, so here we go.

Pink Muscles describes their sound as being influenced by "no wave, hardcore, death metal, thrash metal, noise rock, punk rock and horror movie soundtracks" and "built on layers of effected guitar, pounding rhythms, unconventional song structures and furious screaming to bring the horror to life". The band is the standard guitar/bass/drums, which is fine with me. This album, The Signal, is the bands debut release. It came out at the beginning of this month, and it is a concept album about monsters destroying the Earth and the people on it.

The album cover of The Signal is okay. I like the comic-tone, background image, but the style of the octo-alien in the center, like a pasted paper cutout, is not consistent with that background. This could be fine, though the composition suffers too; it's very busy and the leftmost octo-alien is very "in the way". I like the font for the band's name. Somehow, it seems a little too much like something in a mobile game; it contrasts with the hand-drawn look of the rest. The album title is kind of hard to see, but I like the placement.

The album starts with the very noise rock-y "Resumption". Like the majority of the tracks on the album, this song is like a gross, psychotronic B-movie. It has some cool guitar synth sounds, and some interesting horn sounds at the end. Also the lyrics describe something about "ejaculating in a pool" - yuck!

Next we have "Teenage Rainbows". This track brings more skronk and some cool warbly vocals. It reminds me of another band of space mutants called Moira Scar. I don't know if they are still together.

The third track is titled "Infestopus". It sounds a lot like Melt-Banana - screechy vocals and scratchy guitars. I don't like the vocals on this one, but I do like the melty horny sounds.

"Star Grove" is the fourth track. It's basically hardcore, and I was not a fan. I did like the lyrics "from the other side" and "cast in an alien life". This Misfits-esque track described a sort of alien epic. It was much less complex than the others.

"Man at the End of My Street" is a great title for a horror film. This one is like the Cronenberg version of The Fly. The vocals were too death metal-y, but I did like the lyrics. This one was very sonically interesting, being more musical and complex with a cool bass part. It reminded me of Sonic Youth on something like "Drunken Butterfly". The end and fadeout worked well.

The next track is "Black Market Tampons", which makes me think of buying a strange product and realizing it is something terrible. Again, it is a pretty good horror movie plot, the kind of urban legend that spread around yr neighborhood back in 1995. Anyway, I actually didn't find this song too interesting: it was too simple and the vocals are boring. The guitar does do some cool things, and there are some cool things. On the other hand, I feel like the "male pregnancy as horror" plot is a little transphobic.

Track 7 is "Battery Acid". This is a strong song, and I like it, at least the beginning, which is like a spacecraft making a landing. The later parts are not as good. I don't really like the vocals. If you are understanding the trend, maybe I would like this album better if it was just instrumental? Basically I don't like screamed vocals, and the lyrics are forced to fit into the rhythm too often. If these songs were more poetically told (wow what a pretentious line), I would like them better. "Battery Acid" does have an interesting break. It kind of sounds like a similar artist, Satan's God.

Track 8 is called "Party at Murder Beach", a title that reminds me of a movie I was just thinking of today called Beach Party Massacre. I have never seen that movie, but a friend's relative worked on it. It also lead me to discover the Insect Surfers. Anyway this track starts super strong with a melting, warbling siren and an uneven bass; I wish more of the tracks started this way. The lyrics sound like an alien abduction or "was it the drugs?" It's a definite 60s-70s throwback to surf/beach grindhouse, exploitation films complete with the surf guitar. It is a little too long.

Next is "The Egg Lady", which is another cool name. Another vocalist comes through from the side like weird thoughts or maybe an actual other person, someone you only just noticed when they spoke. This one has better lyrics with more rhymes. It still isn't told particularly well. "There were alien heads" is a weak line; use more action verbs.

Track 10 is "I Wrote This Song with My Father's Guitar". There is a cool guitar part, but I don't like the vocals. The lyrics are funny. This song is short and the perfect length.

"The Master" is track 11. The lyrics get an "ehh" from me. The guitar is decent with some parts that really push forward. The drums are more prominent, and I like how audible the cymbals are. Screechy radio synths tune in at the end.

"Officers of the Universe" is next. The beginning is okay, but the drums are cool. Death metal/monster vocals are cheesy to me, but these really do sound like some angry mutants. I assume they are the titular officers, angry at a subordinate? It's hard for me to make out the words. The end is good.

"Heaven is For Real" is the penultimate track. The guitar downgraded up to a conventional, bedroom hardcore tone; it does improve later in the song, moving down the hall and out to the street. "Heaven is For Real" is very similar to earlier tracks, and the line "there is no God!" is nacho cheese. I like the fuzz at the end.

"Mouth House" is the last track; again it's a good name. There are awesome, ambient sounds at the beginning, cool sounds and more space. I'll take space over layers of sound any day. Vocals clear up to a downpour of still "ehh" lyrics. The plot is sort of like The Evil Dead. When I think about the vocals more though, they make me think of not wanting to go outside, feeling alone but framed in a horror movie plot. This is great! Also I like the horns a lot, and the ghostly, backing vocals add a dreamy, mocking, biting tone to the song. It's too long, though.

Overall, I liked some of the instrumentals, but this album is too brutal and dense for me. I like the songs that reach beyond just the horror movie plots, "Mouth House" and "I Wrote This Song with My Father's Guitar". I don't like these kind of monster vocal tones, though, and the instruments pounding along. When the songs reach their end, their are some great sounds; finally the space opens up for cosmic horrors to descend upon us, for spirits to invade our houses, and for the capturing of strange tones from space. I think I would like Pink Muscles live, and I am interested in seeing what they do in the future. The Signal receives a Neutral.