Artist: Playing for No One
Review by Jessi Roti – @JessiTaylorRO
EP: Cold Light
Houston’s Playing for No One won’t be for long – that is, playing for no one. The band’s EP, Cold Light, is roughly 12 minutes of fuzzy, nu-wave drowned out by garage-rock feedback – like a dirty, younger brother of Bradford Cox’s Deerhunter.
“DeathInWaves” and “RedEmma” are driven by a low, bass rumble that seems to echo Joy Division before Christopher Bates’ vocals coldly, vulnerably breathe life into the tracks. While that “muted” affect is there, the band packs a punch lyrically without relying on an in-your-face, explosive sound. The Bates boys howl, “There is no operation / There is no crowd control / There is no situation hypothetical / I just wanna rock and roll!” It’s a rambunctious declaration of mayhem for a band that steadily rides a chilled wave across four tracks.
Self-described as “alternative punk revival,” the group also channels acts like Collective Soul on the understated, indie-rock lullaby “BigMachine.” As the guitars ebb-and-flow against each other, the vocals float above, tired and breathy in the most alive way. It’s like Strokes-lite, but as of 2015, the Strokes would only be so lucky as to produce a song like this.
The EP comes to a close with the band’s most rollicking delivery, “TigerBloodSnowCone.” It’s English sounding, if that makes sense. Like the snide, low-key brattiness the Clash embodied briefly before deciding they were too cool, or maybe Pete Doherty’s Babyshambles. The guitar seems to race against itself before the reckless bang of the drums kick the track into high-gear. The explosive vocals beckon a Bauhaus comparison as it’s the most animated the band appears on Cold Light. Most importantly, it’s memorable – like a great finale should be.
Playing for No One has skillfully balanced influence with identity. The band’s sound is familiar, but isn’t rehashing anything, and while maybe a bit muted, it definitely isn’t boring. If this is some type of “revival” – why did we ever let this sound die in the first place?