Click to hear: “Iceberg”
Tidal Living is the work of a band on the verge of greatness. You’ve heard records like this before, usually after a group has attained a measure of fame, prompting you to dig into its back catalogue. Think Pavement’s Westing (By Musket and Sextant), Urge Overkill’s Americruiser, Superchunk’s self-titled debut — pretty good albums that point to better things to come.
The Portland-based trio plays punk rock, but it’s seldom that simple. Guitarist and songwriter Brian Cohen keeps taking left turns: shifting rhythmic gears, adding and subtracting backing vocals, building and collapsing song structures. Drummer Mike Cunnane approaches his role like he’s playing jazz, making his kit an expressive instrument in its own right. Tara Bincarousky is solid on bass, but as the ’Snakes lead singer, her contribution equals the guys’.
True to the form, Bincarousky’s vocals are unschooled and exuberant, though not without nuance and melody. The low-fi recording muddles the lyrics in places, but Cohen’s writing tends toward the obscure anyway (e.g.: “There are some things that I look for / like palindromes and bleach white animal bones,” from “Floored”) and the 10” vinyl version of Tidal Living includes a lyric sheet (as well as the URL of a site where you can download the EP and two bonus tracks for modern listening devices).
A highlight among the eight tracks here is the opener, “Iceberg.” It bursts forth with a dual-guitar overture of sorts (that’s multi-instrumentalist Cunnane on the other six-string) before the central riff kicks into overdrive. There’s no chorus (Cohen apparently has little use for them), just a slower passage followed by the peak before the whole thing falls apart.
“Floored” follows, and is also a standout number (David Pence wrote about it in The Online Underground last January), as is “End of Epidemic,” which begins side two. “Epidemic” sports an odd intro — Bincarousky blowing notes on what I believe is a plastic hooter — then gathers momentum to become the catchiest song on the record.
The RattleSnakes have been together less than two years, but are already among the best punk and punk-leaning rock bands in Maine. Their next release could be a monster, and if it isn’t, I’ll bet the one after will be.
— Chris Busby