This is one of those awkward reviews, coming as it does between a widely praised release that I’ve not heard (2002’s Italiano) and a new disc that is already gracing your general store’s CD racks as we speak (2006’s Holding on to Hand Grenades). This Boston outfit has garnered a fair amount of praise for its classically post-punk-influenced sound, fellow Boston outfits Mission of Burma and Husker Du chief among those influences. The best of If Not Now, Then When? seems to justify that praise with some pummeling melody alternating with a little slinky menace.
If the Beatings can manage to top opener “Feel Good Ending” on a regular basis, well then forget it, these guys clearly rule. ‘Rip snorting’ would be a fair description of the tune’s
approach and appeal, with the rough edge and mania of Superchunk but more aggressive, with a hardcore howl alongside the anthemic, slashing guitars. It’s bracing, the type of eye-opening blast of stinging riffs and hooks that could never get old. And it’s about as good an introduction to a band as you’re likely to hear on any given day.
The remainder of If Not Now, Then When? is less immediate but only fails on the title song where the band’s noisier aspect get the better of it and a forgettable roar ensues. Better are the dual vocals on “All Dead Heroes,” guitarist E.R.’s authoritative croon alongside the slightly tempered wails of fellow guitarist Tony Skalicky (note: it’s possible I have those vocal duties backwards). And the aforementioned menace is present in the whispered vocals of bassist Erin Dalbec during the slow lurk of “Stockholm Syndrome Relapse.” All these make strong use of the eternal two-guitar/bass/drum lineup, mixing cathartic slashing with quieter dynamics wrung from the plainly recorded guitars.
So with a less than complete grasp on what the Beatings are up to, If Not Now, Then When? introduces us to a band that manages to exist alongside its forbearers comfortably, if inessentially for the most part. These guys assert themselves near-perfectly for one of these five songs, however, and that’s the primary lure, and so we wait in anticipation for that full-length.