Meat Wave are probably the best band in the world right now; you just don’t know it yet. Well, you do now. Today they released their Volcano Park EP, which takes its name from the book 1-800 Mice by graphic novelist Matthew Thurber, and is the band’s first major output since 2017’s The Incessant. Goddamn, it’s good. Even just six songs and 22 minutes of this band is well worth the four-year wait. Besides, rumour has it there will be a full album not too far down the line.
Opening with their latest single, “Tugboat”, Volcano Park is precisely what the trio does best. They make immediately catchy songs without being annoying, with a ruthless beat and gnarling vocals — some of the best-sounding vocals out there in my mind at least; it’s nice to hear something different — beginning quite starkly but adding layer upon layer of sound; it’s elating without necessarily being happy. Yeah, you can find inspiration from bands like Shellac and Fugazi in their sound, which I suppose makes them post-hardcore-punk, but really it’s just the sound of Meat Wave and the sound of Chicago right now.
Next up is “For Sale”, which is almost rockabilly in rhythm, and relentless from the get-go. Chris Sutter’s voice is Jim Morrison-esque in places here, showing his singing talent is progressing, and it’s no surprise really, Meat Wave have been together for ten years now; they have matured and sound so tight. I wish I had learned about them sooner, though I guess the wait for more would have been harder, so every cloud…
“Yell At The Moon” was their first single release from the Volcano Park EP, and while every song is storming, this probably is the best track they’ve ever done. It’s not an easy choice to make, admittedly. “Yell At The Moon” lures you into a false sense of security with its opening twangs of guitar pausing to bellow into a riff that AC/DC would be proud of. It simmers, then explodes with urgency, like man becoming wolf, tearing to get away into the dark before anyone sees his transformation. Ryan Wizniak’s pounds the drums, Joe Gac’s bass chugs, levelling up and up to that big release of noise — hearing this live will be something else.
Next is easily the slowest tempo track I have heard Meat Wave do, and it’s also one of their best. “Truth Dies” has that lovely chilled swagger to it that early Weezer had. It’s gorgeous, light but dark in the middle, a feeling of something festering under the surface. It leads perfectly into “Nursing”, which sounds like a down-tuned reprise of “Tugboat”, but almost prog/psychedelic in atmosphere and tone. It certainly has an ominous, apocalyptic feel. It’s no surprise really, after a year like 2020, that their music is becoming more self-reflective and experimental.
“Fire Dreams” ends the Volcano Park EP. What a tune! Frantic, seductive, imposing and chilling like a hardcore version of Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds. Really though, what more could you ask for than that? Meat Wave are just getting better and better, and they were bloody fantastic to start with.