Album Review: The Messthetics - 'The Messthetics'

The Messthetics.jpg

The Messthetics are billed as an instrumental trio consisting of Fugazi’s rhythm section and experimental jazz guitarist Anthony Pirog.  Their self entitled album was recently released by Discord and is available from the band’s Bandcamp site.

The album was recorded live over multiple sessions in drummer Brendan Canty’s rehearsal space with minimal overdubs.  Accordingly, the album has a familiar jam session vibe, with a general excited looseness, but manages to avoid the pitfalls of structureless jamming.  For the most part, bassist Joe Lally and Canty keep things simple and steady - providing a solid foundation for Pirog’s sonic explorations.  The recording quality is very good with the mixes leaning a bit towards guitar heavy at times.

Let there be no mistake.  Pirog’s playing makes the album.  He easily shifts between varied fuzz tones, guitar loops, textures, and effects.  He’s prone to veer off into left field with a burst of noise or blistering atonal guitar run, but he never ignores his keen sense of melody for long. 

From the punkish rock of “Serpent Tongue;” to the mellow deep bass of “Once Upon A Time,” with guitar amp hiss tastefully blending into the sonic tapestry; the frenetic riffing of “Quantum Path,” with its’ Stone Temple Pilots like B-section; or the acoustic guitar seasoned “The Weaver,” the Messthetics cover a lot of ground musically and sonically. 

The modal opening track, “Mythomania,” had me hooked within the first couple of bars.  Here, Lally’s understated bass groove carries the song while Pirog’s creative and playful use of effects paint a constantly evolving landscape, recalling Adrian Belew and Nils Cline.

“The Inner Ocean” was another favorite, with subtle brush work by Canty and lush arpeggiated chordal melodies by Pirog.  Least you forget the album was largely recorded live, Pirog tips his hand with an audible click of a stomp box, before launching into full bodied fuzz tones.

Crowds and Power” is the heaviest song of the bunch with punishing guitar and pounding bass and drums.  Yet still, the band breaks down the onslaught to provide a middle section full of space and texture.  This might well be the trio’s trademark…and it certainly provides interest and diversity within the arrangements.

At just over 33 minutes, the album’s length is perfect for the material at hand, and left me looking forward to their next release.  Well done!