“I wish I could be someone else and just go,” Greys frontman Shehzzad Jiwani screams during “Use Your Delusion”. He also, in this order, wishes he was born in New York, born in LA, and/or born into the Royal Family. To top it off, he also wishes he could play the guitar, even though it sounds as though he has a handle on at least that much.
In other words, Jiwani wants out. Of what exactly we don’t know, but it’s easy to suspect that it might not be of anything in particular. Instead, Jiwani’s rant sounds like a reaction against the stagnation and boredom that can come with being in your late teens and early 20s, when the world feels like it’s at your disposal, but you’re just not quite sure what to do with it. That sense of frustration and need to escape is practically a punk rock rite of passage, and If Anything, Greys’ debut full-length, doles out hearty, distorted blasts of rage-addled noise punk by the spoonful.
Anyone who’s been keeping tabs on what’s been going down musically in Toronto in recent years (side note/plea: you should) knows that the city is laying a serious claim to some of the best punk, hardcore, and noise rock being made today. Greys stick pretty damn close to a formula that served their buddies in METZ well on their 2012 Sub Pop debut, namely piercing guitar tones, thunderous drums, and a whole lot of screaming for your life.
Greys’ influences are upfront to the point of being comical, namely as the band knowingly kowtows to Fugazi’s Guy Picciotto on, you guessed it, “Guy Picciotto”. Elsewhere, the band bruises its way through a slate of 11 songs that pay scathing yet melodic homage to other noisy rock and roll mercenaries like Nirvana (“Adderal”), the Hot Snakes (“Girl in Landscape”), Shellac (eh, pretty much everything), and almost any band with a DC postmark.
Tying all of the turbulent threads together is a sense of sardonic angst. Greys has many targets, from perceived sexism in today’s music scene (“Chick Singer”) to a future they envision as being drained of hope (“Brief Lives”). But if the band insists on entertaining a jaded, troubled headspace, at least everything on If Anything sounds pretty damned good from the outside looking in. It’s exciting to hear a young act exercise its bashful demons, and while youthful angst is nothing new (especially in the redundantly pissed-off world of punk rock), that all hardly matters when you carry it this well.
Essential Tracks: “Guy Picciotto,” “Girl in Landscape”, and “Use Your Delusion”