Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A Start – And Nothing is #1

Some have called math-rock geek-rock, and at times rightfully so. The complex rhythms, recurring time changes, and complicated guitar lines create an intriguing sound, but often it sounds like people showing off. Here, geek-rock may be a good term more to fit the band, who choose a secret code from Contra as their band name and include song titles like “I Know You’ll Find Out That I’m a Geek” and “Muscle, When Will I See It” on this, their first full-length after playing together for more than four years.
Up Up Down Down is all about mixing styles. The percussion is booming at times, intricate and slightly jazzy at others. Complex guitars mix with mellow, acoustic guitars, and the two singers are a strange mix – one laid-back and sweet sounding, the other angry and on the verge of shouting. Often, these things mix together at the same time, creating an interesting hodge-podge that wouldn’t work in a million years. But it works here remarkably well. You can tell these guys have been playing together for a long time, because this is a technique surely honed over countless shows and jam sessions.
The opener, “You Landed So Gracefully,” sounds quite a bit like its name. Acoustic guitars mix with echoed drums and laid-back vocals for a graceful blend of styles. The aforementioned “I Know You’ll Find Out…” starts off quieter, more mellow, but has an urgent, loud interlude. Both singers get more intense on “My Argument Precedes Me,” but again their conflicting voices bring an odd yet exciting feel to the song. The driving guitars on “As Usual” bring to mind the post-hardcore genre, while “Is That a Terrible Thing to Say?” is more mellow and restrained throughout. There’s even some nice strings on my favorite track, “Time Wastes No Time.” Yet it’s their songs that combine the two approaches that work the best, and the band really does rock on songs like “See You in a Month” and “By Surprise.”
The band has released several 7″s and EPs and toured often, but this is their first full-length, and barely that at under 30 minutes. Still, some bands benefit from taking a slower approach to their music, and this is one of them. This style is extremely unique, yet the complex guitars and rhythms and oddly contrasting vocal styles are pleasant rather than discordant, and I’m extremely impressed. I imagine this band would do a great live show as well.