Chicago art rockers volcano!
broke out of the gates seven years back with Beautiful Seizure
, a widely varied blast of noise and operatic crooning that displayed considerable grace amidst its chaos. They followed it up in 2008 with Paperwork
, which topped its predecessor’s structured dischord with additional layers of calculated instrumental clamor and off-kilter rhythms. volcano! vanished for the next four years, returning this summer with Piñata
, which piles on the pandemonium with even more frantic guitar plucking and multi-octave wails.
Piñata rarely gives itself—or the listener—time to relax. It buzzes into life with a single note ringing from a guitar, an electronic hum, and the warped clanging of bells; these opening seconds on the title track are a calm before the hurricane, before a low pulsing synth heralds the arrival of volcano!’s carefully-constructed bedlam. Take a breath here: You won’t have many other chances. The songs on the band’s third record are so tightly wound that they’re sometimes tough to take. Singer and guitarist Aaron With’s voice leaps and plummets octaves over stuttered beats and the plinking of keys, all while he’s chik-chik-a-clinking up and down the upper register of his fretboard. It’s ceaseless, exhausting as it is exhilarating. The band’s instrumental prowess is obvious throughout the free-for-fall; it’s actually not all that easy to sound this disorganized.
The lyrics are as surreal as the music. The sputtering riff that leads “Child Star” complements With’s bizarre vocal narrative about reincarnation. He later wishes he could turn his hands into knives in the chorus of the ballad “Fighter”, and the song “Platebreaker” is supposedly about pineapple chili.
With its nonstop barrage of sounds and ideas, this is an album that calls for a lot of cooperation from its audience; you have to work harder for this one than the more accessible Beautiful Seizure or Paperwork. However, it’s a natural progression for the band, and a worthwhile next step for fans who have graduated past their first two albums. If you fall into that category, Piñata should ultimately prove a rewarding experience—provided you’re able to keep up.
Essential Songs: “Fighter”