Let's get real for a minute. I don't know shit about Virginia. For all I know the entire state is some sick mixture of super-rich assholes, inbred Appalachian weirdos, and Quakers. But whatever the social climate is over there, one thing is for sure: they can rock.
(quick disclaimer: if you're reading this from Virginia and want to correct me on my Virginia history—don't bother, because I don't care.)
So way back in like '98 this band called Pg.99 started up and they were brutal as fuck. What started as a less-than-impressive six piece punk outfit eventually ballooned into a 16 piece full-force punk rock hydra that knew how to fuck shit up. They were all about ridiculous “punk rock” spoken word manifestos and song names like “Your Face Is A Rape Scene”.
Anyway, this isn't about Pg.99. They were punk as fuck and more than a little ridiculous and they broke up and that's where the story begins. When you have 14 dudes in your band and your band breaks up, new bands are going to spew forth like maggots generating from rotten meat. And that's exactly what happened.
Let's talk first about the most important band that rose from the carcass of Pg.99: City of Caterpillar. As far as i'm concerned these guys redefined heavy music. Their big thing was taking heavy as shit moments not too far removed from, say, Pg.99 or Orchid, and mixing them with long instrumental passages not dissimilar to something like Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Needless to say shit like this totally blew my mind way back in 2002 when everyone else was going apeshit over that stupid Thursday album Full Collpase and fucking Poison The Well. Ugh I remember the first year of that Plea for Peace tour when I paid up to watch Cursive play for 15 minutes and then had to sit through both of these bands and practically OD'd on douche fumes.
Anyway, as great as City of Caterpillar is/was, they aren't the main focus of this post either. Long story short, they released one fantastic album, an equally fantastic EP and then broke up....just like every good hardcore band does (not counting Planes Mistaken For Stars, who rather than break up just decided that they were tired of whining about how no girls will love them and figured they might as well grow their hair out, start drinking whiskey and put on a serious bearded-tough-guy act. Yeah assholes, I remember when you were on Deep Elm even if you don't.) I call it the “Level Plane Curse.” So CoC was gone—leaving nothing behind save one unreleased song, some great live videos and a whole bunch of sad dudes with beards (or handlebar mustaches.)
(Check out City of Caterpillar on Youtube and watch the video of "Driving Spain Up a Wall" to witness their final, unrecorded song and see what the world is totally missing out on.)
[Editor's Note: Here's the video, dudes:]
The death of City of Caterpillar in 2004 takes us closer to the present day, as a lot of the bands that emerged from this hollow cocoon are still around as glorious butterflies (get it? caterpillar....butterfly??) First we have Malady, which ditched the post-rock and added a slight grunge aspect. Yeah, I know, grunge sucks, but these guys didn't. They released one pretty good album and broke up (what's with these dudes?) So now, in 2008, we are left with two bands formed and fronted by ex members of the City of Caterpillar/Pg.99 brain trust: Verse En Coma and Ghastly City Sleep.
Let's get Ghastly out of the way because even they're not the subject of this post either: they're good. Their self-titled debut just came out a little while ago on Robotic Empire and you should pick it up. A lot of the instrumentation is mellow and borderline ambient, and the vocals are hushed and serene. The whole album has a glacial, ethereal quality that I find very soothing. No grindcore breakdowns here folks!
So anyway, on to the album I really wanted to talk about: Verse En Coma and their debut EP Rialto. All the way back in fucking 2006 these dudes posted an unmixed, untitled demo, and just now, IN 2008, we have a finished EP. Five songs over two years, nice job fellas. Anyway, since that first song I had been pissing my pants in anticipation, because this felt like the true successor to the City of Caterpillar empire. Sure, they don't have the mosh inducing intensity of their parent band, or even the disarmingly beautiful instrumental sections...they honestly share more in common with Malady musically than City, but this time it felt more legit. Seriously, this is something wonderful: shoegaze that I don't hate. Taking the elements I enjoy about the genre and saying “fuck off” to the elements I hate about it. Fantastic instrumentation runs rampant through this EP; especially the wonderfully restrained drumming of Ryan Parrish, who is a great example of a dude who really knows how to fuck shit up on the drums but doesn't always have to let everyone in the room know it, which is the #1 quality I look for in a drummer. "Tiny Speakers" and "In a Factory" are early standouts.
I'm going to wrap this up. Long ass story short: check some of these dudes out, maybe you'll dig it. If you're not into anything even remotely “hard” your best bet is Ghastly City Sleep. Support these dudes in any way you can, because as I'm sure we all know there's no money in shit like this. Buying their $10 record from their myspace or whatever probably means they get to go out and have a beer that night. And for fuck's sake Verse En Coma give you the CD AND LP of Rialto packaged together for the price of a regular CD. What else are you going to do with that money, buy You've Got Mail on DVD? Go see Disaster Movie? Don't be a dick.
I doubt my other posts will be nearly as long and/or serious as this.
-The Good Doctor B