(Rat Pâté Records, digital download)
By and large, genre names are pointless, often ridiculous and usually inaccurate. Yet "mountain punk" sounds so damn cool. How damn cool?
"What are you doing tonight, man?" a friend might ask.
"Me? I'm going to listen to some mountain punk," you reply, pulling a hood over your head and beginning a slow walk up some hardcore-looking fucking mountain.
That's damn cool. Thus, I am all for mountain punk as a genre, even if it only features one band: Comrade Nixon from Lyon Mountain, N.Y.
I'd never heard the term until I listened to Comrade Nixon's Feels Like a Thousand Years a year or so ago. The singular descriptor absolutely fits front man Andrew Wilson's frenzied, wry songwriting. Listening to his records can have an effect similar to that of stumbling into a dive bar in a strange town and having some barfly poet shouting abstracts at you. As evidenced by the band's latest release, Odd Todd, mountain punk is an aggressive but riveting experience.
As on Comrade Nixon's 2017 effort, Wilson keeps his band sparse here: just himself and a drummer. This time it's Sam Egan pounding the hell out of some beats. If anything, Odd Todd is a more aggressive record than its predecessor — which I didn't think was possible.
"Mithras" is a heavy, hanging-on-by-the-skin-of-its-teeth blast of punk rock. Egan drums for his life as Wilson spits out rapid-fire growls and wails. The singer's delivery betrays his influences: hints of Joe Strummer and Ian MacKaye.
Even when the band is banging out instrumentals — "S.K.O'Bash," for instance — an unrelenting ferocity drives the songs. Everything was recorded on this side of Lake Champlain, once again with producer Ryan Cohen at Robot Dog Studio. At this point, Cohen has Comrade Nixon's sound dialed in. Wilson's snarling guitar work and Egan's breakneck drums fill up any available space. Despite being a duo, the band can lay out a wall of incredible, distorted sound.
The songs on Comrade Nixon's previous record had a tendency to bleed into one another. That sameness is a danger when a record features multiple tracks that clock in at less than three minutes — and generally move at the speed of a runaway train. Odd Todd averts the same pitfall largely through slight but significant shifts in Wilson's writing.
"Diggory Deathshead" and "Bob Wolfe" are both tightly constructed tunes full of purpose and energy. Wilson even shifts his band into Ramones territory with "Oh Sally." His craft has authenticity, and he has a way of letting his character define the songs. The effect is such that even when Comrade Nixon are at their most chaotic and frothing mad, Wilson never loses the plot. The result is that Odd Todd is another fun jolt of a record from first track to last.
Odd Todd by Comrade Nixon is available at comradenixon.bandcamp.com.