State of Ohio – Ohio

The grand old state of Ohio may not have a Sufjan album out yet, but it does have a good Modest Mouse song back there somewhere, and now it has a band named after it. That seems a fair tribute, for as far as I know there isn’t a band called State of Florida, and I consider my home state to be a pretty good one. I’ve never been to Ohio, but my father was raised there for a few years, and it’s certainly produced its share of U.S. Presidents and other celebrated individuals. The Economist declares: “This slice of the mid-west contains a bit of everything American—part north-eastern and part southern, part urban and part rural, part hardscrabble poverty and part booming suburb.” If this is true, then the band seems to have picked up on an appropriately polychromatic style for its moniker: fast, motley alt-punk that recalls the Pixies and treads the paths of bands like At the Drive-In and Despistado with diligence.

This was a very pleasant surprise, because the self-titled CD that was sent to me does not have much going for it in the artistic department. Clearly self-released, with a bizarre color scheme and strange liner notes such as “Recorded over one extremely hot and one modeate (sic) weekend,” I was prepared for the worst. But, as if to verify that old saying about book covers—and demonstrate that rock bands still don’t have to give a shit—State of Ohio have patched together an astonishingly captivating record, equal parts craft and brute force.

Indeed, there have been very few bands to succeed with these elements since At the Drive-In went on hiatus; Bear Vs. Shark, those other Midwest natives, also come to mind. There are so many styles and sounds colliding here, waiting to be sewn hastily together in the head-over-heels mania, that, like the quasi-emo stylings of the forebears above, the music’s overall effect is difficult to pin down. The singer’s catarrhal howl, like Dave Chappelle’s Samuel L. Jackson, never comes down from its agitated state while guitars and drums pulse along, drawing continuously on the tenants of nineties alternative and appending the precision of post-millenial rock. It all smacks so heavily of El Gran Orgo-era ATDI that fans of that hallowed band might well wonder whose voice has replaced Cedric Bixler’s. At a time when many might question the artistic direction of Bixler, Rodriguez-Lopez, and co., it’s a welcome reminder of the past.

Unfortunately, so little information is available about this group of guys that it’s impossible to refer to any specifics like lyrics, names, or duration of existence. Their meager website hasn’t been updated for three months, so there’s no way to know if they’re even around anymore. Hopefully not, but if that’s the case, then the band may rest assured that they’ve recorded a worthy testament to their capacity as rock musicians. Frankly, I can see an album of this sort following the Cap’n Jazz trajectory long after live shows have ceased; that’s little consolation for a band forced to print the liner notes themselves and record an album in two measly days, but it’s the creative process that counts, after all. And, pastiche or not, State of Ohio is an impressive accomplishment. Here’s an album that approaches a subject of absurd scale—an homage to the entire state of Ohio—and manages to sidestep preposterousness. Sufjan has gotten away with the same through sheer meticulousness and talent, but it is surprising, to say the least, to see a band escape farce simply by not appearing at all concerned with appearance. Of course, it is unlikely that this group has the same ambitions as Mr. Stevens. They’re probably content to lounge around after practice, grab some beers, and, when pressed to come up with a band name, ask “Why the Hell shouldn’t we call ourselves Ohio?”