Glasslands Gallery, Brooklyn, New York
September 19th, 2013
San Francisco based chainsaw pop trio Terry Malts played Glasslands in support of their brand new second album Nobody Realizes This Is Nowhere and Carrie Quartly went along for Louder Than War .
I caught Terry Malts live at the dimly lit converted warehouse cum art space of Glasslands in Brooklyn shortly after their second album Nobody Realizes This Is Nowhere dropped via the remarkably consistent Slumberland Records. It’s a slightly more thoughtful and sophisticated follow-up to the more carefree fuzz of Killing Time (see our earlier ‘album of the day’ feature here), but with all the Terry Malts trademarks solidly intact; darkly satirical lyrics mocking modern day miseries and consumerist culture over catchy melodies balanced against boisterous noise attacks.
The Terry Malts live experience is steeped in a rapid-fire ‘live like there’s no tomorrow’ aesthetic and they rarely leave time for audience chatter. They only pause to quickly tune up, and sometimes to exchange light-hearted insults amongst themselves!
The lack of interaction does not make them unengaging, quite the opposite; they play at a breakneck pace, and you can not help but feel energised and buzzing with new life by their glorious, full-throttle intensity.
Nathan Sweatt’s steady drum thumping is the sturdy backbone of their bristling sound palette, continually hurtling everything forward in a very assured and commanding way. Phil Benson’s throbbing bass, disaffected vocal drone and authoritative split leg stance onstage recalls a more sarcastic Ramones.
Meanwhile, the abrasive distortion of Corey Cunningham’s fuzzed out guitar shredding weaves together the lean muscle and focused fury of 80’s American hardcore with simple yet effective pop hooks, highlighting the band’s sleek songwriting chops.
Like the sequencing on their two albums; the flow of Terry Malts in a live setting is seamless, and the set was a pretty even mix of songs from both (about 6 from each one).
From Killing Time, they blasted through the blistering hot guitar crunch of “Nauseous” and “Not Far From It”. The anthemic choruses and beautifully clattering percussion of “Waiting Room” also got an airing, along with the youthful romanticism of the velvety Jesus and Mary Chain-esque “Tumble Down”, just to name a few.
Nobody Knows This Is Nowhere was represented by the defiant corkscrew squeal of “Two Faces”, the well-observed alienation hymn “Human Race”, which awesomely expresses disgust at our own kind, and the spitfire frenzy of “They’re Feeding”, where Benson is closest to channeling the nasally drawl of Joey Ramone. They closed out with the gloomy yet simultaneously uplifting lead single “I Was Not There”, which was penned during a peyote trip when the band embarked on a ‘vision quest’ in the Tucson desert.
Where most other bands would have to put in a considerable amount of effort, sweat, and maybe even ritualistic animal sacrifices or some other strange voodoo in order to make this magic happen, Terry Malts seem to manage with confounding ease. Their performance is tightly paced and relatively precise, but as self-described “detached, disillusioned so-and-so’s, thriving on barely trying”, there is an inherent playfulness and casual looseness in their demeanor which makes it even harder to resist their charms.
I can only think of two complaints, the first being the completely static presence which infected the majority of the audience. It was as if some rare flesh-eating disease had swept through the crowd, causing an instant mass paralysis (or a highly contagious outbreak of the boring and self-consciously hip, as it is otherwise known).
While the stage held my undivided attention for the duration of the performance (I took some photos but had to quickly toss my camera away into my bag whenever I felt compelled to shake in my weird shambolic way approximating a dance, which was often), I could still sense I was the sole head banger present. Everyone else seemed to hang back with a jaded air of nonchalant ‘cool’, and whether it was because it was mid-week or that New York audiences just plain suck in general, I’m not too sure, but Jesus Christ, you’re not dead yet, people! Having said that though, this does seem to be the norm at Glasslands, except when The King Khan & BBQ Show played there this past April and I nearly got crushed to death…
The second complaint is simply that the music of Terry Malts is so addictive – from the melodic power ballads to the distortion drowned overdrive of their more anxious, punkier songs – that it seemed over far too soon, and I always want more!
Life’s a Dream
Where Is the Weekend?
Something About You
I Was Not There
All words and photos by Carrie Quartly. You can read more of her writing on the site here.