Post post-punk solidarity

Ought

More Than Any Other Day

Constellation

28th April 2014

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Ought has been burning with a strong and steady flame since flickering to life in Montreal in 2011. Holed up in a shared apartment that doubled as their rehearsal space, the four band members self-recorded a first EP and played their first show in these domestic confines, then busted out into the city’s loft circuit, and into the city streets during the Printemps d’Erable Quebec student general strike, in 2012. These inspired months of mass mobilization against neo-liberal austerity measures galvanized a wide and inspiring range of agit-prop expression in Montreal, and indelibly shaped the emerging sound, vision and social mandate of the band.

Guitarist/vocalist Tim Beeler, who previously had been writing poetry and folk music, drew new energy from electrification/amplification and from solidarity/protest alike; his declarative, observational vocal style ranges from wide- eyed to worried, but never submits to cool irony or emotional detachment.

Ought’s earnest, stately and exuberant post-punk is dextrous, deliberate, unfussy and fluid, with debts to Cap’n Jazz, The Feelies, Lungfish, Gang Of Four and early Talking Heads, among many others.

The band shifts from sharp angles and stuttering counterpoint to softer edges and chiming flow, with an economy of elements and fidelity to their basic 4-piece constitution. The instrumental interplay is consistently whipsmart, supple and deceptively simple. Beeler’s speak-singing can give way to melancholic melodic croons and ragged, desperate yelps, always driven by sincerity of feeling and connection to his subject matter, whether that’s the conundrum of our fractured interiority, or communion with others in our fractured social space – or, for the most part, both.

Ought are a righteous and humble young band, fiercely dedicated to grassroots organizing and artmaking, taking as self- evident the inseparability of politics and aesthetics.

They came together in Montréal as a band of expatriates initially attracted by sense-sharpening Canadian winters and university tuition that doesn’t cost $40k a year. The city’s cultural scene – especially its independent music ethos and galvanizing radical politics – was the underlying attractor, however, and one they jumped right into. Guitarist and vocalist Tim Beeler, originally a folk musician hailing from New Hampshire, fell in with New Jersey native Matt May (keyboards) and Australian émigré Tim Keen (drums, violin) – the three of them began sharing an apartment that doubled as practice space, where they were soon joined by Portland OR transplant Ben Stidworthy on bass. Ought played its first show and recorded its first EP in the apartment’s largest bedroom, in the summer of 2012.

Ought is part of a vital and politically-engaged DIY arts community that has coalesced around one of the loft spaces at the northern limit of Montreal’s Mile End district in recent years (the same zone that incubated Constellation almost 20 years ago). The four band members are, unsurprisingly, participants in a half-dozen other music projects. Various members have also worked with Montreal’s fearless and beloved CKUT radio and the Howl! Arts Collective.

Additional Ought history comes by way of the band’s own account:

It’s hard to talk about how the band came to be without talking about Loose-Fit , the Brasserie, and The Femmaggots . Loose-Fit was (and is) booking shows out of a local mainstay-type bar in Petit-Patrie called Brasserie Beaubien. This empowered a lot of people to be adventurous with new projects, and also it being always pay-what-you-can and chilled out and a publicly accessible venue (versus a loft-type situation where the address can’t be posted)—basically, it was (is) a Good Thing Going On. The Femmaggots were (are) our friends (and, some, housemates) at the time and besides being near and dear and fucking great people, they inspired a lot of others to start making music—many in this weird kind of punk-esque/political/wordy/funny world that we were also really into.

SO…the Femmaggots, plus the Brasserie made for a slowly expanding spiral of great music happening, plus actively bringing in lots of other groups that we didn’t know about + hooking up with great people coming through town. More Than Any Other Day definitely came out of this environment (and coming to terms with working varying degrees of bad jobs, etc), but also Quebec during the student strike , which was a total lid-off type situation that we were all really affected by. Meeting + playing with all these amazing people is really the story of the band, having never really gotten hype’d or even making physical releases and just really playing lots and being excited and thankful for the opportunity to keep playing and having a true fucking blast at shows, as they say.

Following another recording session in early 2013 and the release of a second EP via Bandcamp, Ought spent a few days at the Hotel2Tango studio with engineer Radwan Moumneh (Suuns, Matana Roberts, Jerusalem In My Heart) in fall 2013 at the invitation of Constellation, laying down a clutch of songs new and old that comprise the band’s first “proper” full- length album.

The Aural Delights View : Unrelenting, uncompromising and loads of other words beginning with un-. A fantastic noise – it reminds me of the shiver up the spine I first got on hearing “’77”, “Hex Enduction Hour”, “Spiderland” , and “EVOL”. This is a masterful reconstruction of the history of post-punk guitar rock – at one point a barrage of sound which pummels you into dumb acceptance – “Pleasant Heart”  – at another the fractured jittery dance rock of early Talking Heads bursts through from a slow start on “More Than Any Other Day” with Beeler adopting the manic intensity, albeit in a less mannered and more angry way, of David Byrne in his hey-day. “Habit” is perhaps the most “Heads” oriented track on the album echoing the schema of “Fear of Music” with its’ one word title and Beeler’s “speak-sing” approach but there is also a fevered intensity towards the end which transcends that comparison. The band then flip the genres with “The Weather Song”, which gets a bit Osterberg, and then morphs into a high tempo American guitar pop work-out with stunning changes, great melodies, and an instantly memorable set of hooks. “Forgiveness” begins with an organ drone with atonal layers floating around the edges and develops into a laconic heartfelt howl of rage over chittering guitars – for some reason I was reminded of the insouciant drawl of Shaun Ryder at one point. In any event marvellous and memorable stuff. Back to the back-beat with the excellent “Around Again” which feels like something from late 70s/early 80s New York in parts and then goes off somewhere else entirely – there are at least four distinct elements to the tune and each of them is excellent – together they are beyond that. There’s an excellent band from Bolton called Total Victory who operate in the same zone as these guys and, apart from the accent differences between the two singers,  “Around Again” would fit comfortably on one the Lancashire bands albums. Penultimate track “Clarity!” broods away over surging synth whispers and insistent guitar until exploding into another emotionally charged attack on this senses. No time to catch your breath before plunging into the glorious closer “Gemini” another unrelenting, unforgiving and uncompromising 7 minutes of splendid music. An early contender for album of the year.

You can pre-order the album via Constellation Website.

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