Indian Jewelry, Peel It
I never thought I’d say it, but after listening to new album Peel It, I think Houston-spawned noise-punk nomads Indian Jewelry may just be mellowing out. Just a wee, tiny bit, mind you, and “mellowed out” for this quartet (which I hear expanded to a quintet for the album, with longstanding member Brandon Davis returning at least briefly) still translates to “mind-fucking paranoiac sound that makes you want to light things on fire.”
So no, there’re no acoustic ballads going on here, don’t worry, but from the initial explosion of 2006’s Invasive Exotics through to 2010’s Totaled, the band has seemingly been content to slither their way through a trench of raw, bitter noise, simultaneously giving everyone and anyone in earshot the finger. With Peel It, though, it feels like there’s a more solid, less-scary foundation lurking beneath the surface, if you can just scrape through the grime.
From where I sit, at least, that’s no bad thing. I’ve loved the band’s previous stuff but could only take it in small doses or risk a skull-shattering headache for the rest of the day; with Peel It, by contrast, I’ve been listening over and over and over for a couple of hours now with no ill effects. (And yes, I do realize that may run counter to the Indian Jewelry gang’s overarching goals…)
It just seems like there’s more you can hold onto here. There’s plenty of murky post-punk roiling around, especially on “See Forever,” which makes me think of Pere Ubu at points, or “Heart Of A Dog,” which comes off like the bastard offspring of one of Jim Thirlwell’s Foetus projects (a little NY Noise dirt from the band’s sojourn, maybe?). Then there’s the grimy stagger-stomp of “Against Nature,” which could almost be a Barkmarket outtake,
On the other hand, though, there’re a handful of tracks that are almost pretty, believe it or not, like the funky/sweet “Eva Cherie” or the swirling, woozy “How Long,” the latter of which almost wanders across the line into dreampop territory. Granted, some of it’s due to Erika Thrasher’s soaring, off-in-the-distance vocals, but frontman Tex Kerschen gets in on it, too, with “Guns,” which starts off machine-like and dizziness-inducing but metamorphosizes into a Black Rebel Motorcycle Club song, all sun-fried haze and hypnotic guitars.
My favorite track’s actually the first, “Freak Pride,” with its funky percussion and dark, spooky vibe — it reminds me awesomely of Primal Scream’s “Swastika Eyes” if the song were being covered by the Velvet Underground. Which makes sense, now that I think about it, because the longer they’re with us, the more I’m coming to feel like Indian Jewelry are this generation’s answer to the Velvet Underground.
Just when I think the band’s definitely stepped sideways into a less-dark space, though, I run headlong into “Don’t Fear The Future,” all slow-moving menace and sinister, scraping instrumentation. The lyrics seemingly try to reassure, but the music slinks up alongside you with a sharp piece of glass, ready to gut you like a fish.
When Kerschen promises, “You’ll still get / what’s coming to you,” suddenly I’m no longer sure I really, truly want it anymore. Is it too late to back away slowly? Mellowed or not, this is pretty much what the End of the World sounds like — no massive explosion or cataclysm, but a slow, subtle sinking downwards to oblivion.