By: Hunter Funk
It doesn’t take long for the eponymous debut by Carl Sagan’s Skate Shoes to bring the noise. The opener, “(1)”, rolls in like the tentative first drops of a Texas thunderstorm before plunging into a squall of dissonant post-hardcore. What follows is a trim half-hour of some of the best (and loudest) punk the city of Austin has to offer, inspired by influences as varied as Shellac and southern slide guitar. Early cut “Sundance Kid” finds guitarist/vocalist Steve Pike narrating a loose and gritty outlaw scenario – “Ain’t got nowhere to run to / Ain’t got no home / I’m a wanted man” – which, he admits, is “essentially a country western tale we wrote while really high listening to Neil Young.” The music itself scans as equal parts slinky, Jesus Lizard-like groove and balls-out noise. Whatever the case, as his venomous chorus, “you gotta respect that name!!" caves into a scorched-earth slide freakout, any sense of pastiche melts in the heat.
Elsewhere, the flip side of the record sizzles with faster-tempo fury. “Smoke” and “Turning Gears” provide a solid one-two punch, world-weary vocals – “My eyes fall off onto the floor / I don’t need them anymore” – are juxtaposed against blistering guitar. But it’s the final track, “Speak”, a re-recorded holdover from the group’s 2014 demo, that may turn the heads of even casual listeners. Bookended by a punishingly heavy, pseudo-stoner metal section that’s sure to start more than a few pits if played live, it’s promptly blown open by the most purely hardcore moment on the LP, with Pike delivering life affirmation in a throat-shredding holler. “NEVER! LET IT! BRING YOU DOWN!” Sludgy twin guitars swell, then slow behind him, climaxing in a lurching, monolithic outro. When the dust settles, it’s hard not to jump for the repeat button. Carl Sagan's Skate Shoes is a well-tempered balance of swagger, force, and vitriol. The debut album establishes the threesome as standouts among their peers, a force to be reckoned with.
You can snag yourself a copy of Carl Sagan's Skate Shoes at Antone’s, Waterloo, or a local record shop of your choice.