Keeping up with the D.I.Y. ethos so readily found in punk rock and hardcore music is something that, with the explosion of digital music, has become easier for many musicians, allowing them to promote and share their music to a nearly unlimited audience. And with the backing of a small, independent record label that subscribes to the same creed, bands like Grand Rapids, MI based Jowls are able to spread their music to an eager fan base. Recently joining the Tiny Engines label roster, Jowls have released their latest EP, Cursed. An old-school sonic assault from the opening lyrics of “Ruins”, Ryan Martin (guitar/vocals), Jeff Kraus (drums/vocals) and John Harmon (bass) have used their unique instrumentation lineup to create a wall of sound worthy of a larger group.
Cursed is an album which should not go unnoticed. While many bands of this genre have abandoned the straight ahead, pure energy commonly associated with punk and hardcore for ultra clean, compressed production quality and math-inspired polyrhythms to heighten the music’s complexity, Cursed strips away all of the extraneous fluff to deliver a raw and sonically inspiring piece of work.
“Ruins” contains the workings of a minimalist piece building on one main guitar riff, followed by post-punk inspired breaks which only add energy to the song. “Shamewalker” exposes the clarity of the guitars in the mix, and utilizes a double-time feel mid way through the song to propel it to its conclusion. As the album progresses, the production value of the recording becomes more apparent. The third track, “Monotoned”, features a drum intro that is completely unhindered and in your face. “Sway Slow” is a track very much in the post-punk vein, upbeat and immense while lasting barely over a minute. The hits are harder on the fifth track, “Indian Giver”. It is here the listener gets a true appreciation for Harmon’s bass tone and the power it thrusts behind the band. The final track, “Long-Winded” lends its name appropriately to the entire album, as it is the longest track at just over four minutes. Here we find elements of post-hardcore that open the track as a more ambient groove. That groove quickly and violently shifts to an uptempo punk feel that proves to be the most energetic track on the album.
Jowls have found a sonic niche which, if crafted carefully, will allow them to become one of the most respected and powerful punk/hardcore bands of this era. Their willingness and desire to be part of the D.I.Y. community will provide them with plenty opportunity to create their music, and will also allow them to craft their music to an audience which will remain loyal. Jowls is a band to keep an eye on, and Cursed is an essential album for anyone with an appreciation for punk and hardcore.