Quatre Téte – Art Of The State

Quatre Téte - Art Of The State

Progressive Punk is an interesting combination of music. It juxtaposes the most complicated genre of the last forty years with the simplest. Musically, it has tricky rhythms, fast guitar playing, complex arrangements and a lot of energy. Vocally, it is extremely basic and routine, seeming to exist just to fulfill the expectation of having a singer. If this sounds appealing, Quatre Téte’s new album, Art Of The State, should be right up your alley.

Formed in Chicago, the trio consists of guitarist Mark Bartak, bassist Becka Joynt and drummer Rick Lane. Showing a sense of humor about their music, they describe their work as “A Math professor on cocaine wrestling a chimpanzee in a burning plane about to crash into a volcano.” I would describe it a middle ground between At The Drive-In and The Mars Volta, but without the hypnotic melodies and emotive vocals of Cedric Bixler Zavala. And of course, the guitar work of Omar A Rodriguez-Lopez is a lot more unconventional. Still, Art Of The State impresses despite its derivativeness.

Even though there are many bands out there that sound like this, you have to respect their musicianship. All three members of Quatre Téte are very skilled at playing their instruments and their ability to play around so many notes and shifting time signatures is remarkable. That being said, Quatre Téte also fall victim to a lack of diversity within their formula. They never change timbres or drastically shift dynamics, which results in a half hour’s music that sounds largely the same throughout. Essentially, you may remember a riff or rhythm but have trouble remember where exactly it comes on the album.

Unfortunately Quatre Téte, like almost every band that plays this type of music, would be better without the vocals. It is clear that the focus is on the music, and the rebellious voice only takes away from it by being somewhat annoying and average. It seems that almost every punk singer has this sound, which is comparable to a lower pitched version of Iggy Pop via The Stooges’ “Search and Destroy.” If Quatre Téte focused on the songwriting and melodies, the vocals would be necessary (but would require improvement of course). But Art Of The State is not about that, so why even include it? The best moments come when there are no vocals and the band is just jamming.

Like so much similar indie music, this album is both good and bad. The band has a talent for creating intricate, attention grabbing compositions that constantly change, but it all kind of sounds the same, not to mention like dozens of other artists. Plus, the vocals add nothing and merely distract. In the end, Art Of The State is an LP that you will respect and enjoy while it’s on, but could easily forget and find another act with the same sound.