Heavy noise merchants Centipedes have been sporadically upstaging local and national touring bands around Milwaukee for the past four years or so, but impressed attendees never found any music to buy at their shows. Recorded a year ago by Shane Hochstetler at Howl Street Recordings, the band’s self-titled debut EP accomplishes the rare feat of capturing the raw energy of a punishing live show while accentuating Centipedes’ songwriting strengths.
Opening track “Astaire” features a couple of different, instantly memorable riffs that wouldn’t sound out of place in any of the past four decades of underground music—post-punk in the sense that punk already happened, but verging on pop-punk in terms of accessibility. It’s the catchiest tune on the album, but there are enough hooks strewn between the noise barrage of “Breath” and the teeth-gnashing stomp of “Godless Left” to threaten an awful lot of airplay on sub-mainstream FM.
“Breath” is a gnarly, frenetic post-hardcore assault that hearkens back to the early days of Neurosis, and “Long Intermission” touches on similarly sludgy sounds but mashes them up with some trebly melodic guitar patterns akin to Sonic Youth, and some echoing, shoegaze shimmers that approximate Mogwai. The songs are never complex in arrangement or execution, but they make judicious use of unique musical devices, like the way the mechanical, droning baritone chords of “Robot Village” are offset by a squeaky clanging motif in the opposite speaker. Add to that the guttural flow of “Godless Left,” which is interrupted during the chorus with a disjointed stutter that’s curiously uplifting compared to the rest of the record.
There are some interesting lyrics throughout the record, but “Godless Left” is the one track that stands out. There are multiple clever variations of similar-sounding phrases, the key one being, “So we’re the godless left / So full of social unrest / We’ll keep our bodies in a safe place.” Not subtle, but effective, and the music rides like a military march, with Kelsey Kaufmann’s drumming taking center stage as it often does on the album. At times, the beat becomes the default hook; the thudding kick-and-snare pattern of “Robot Village” is infectious, and the relentless syncopated stomp of “Merry” carries the tune even as it gives way to waves of controlled, percussive chaos again and again. It’s a sonically punishing record, but the tunes will stick around even after your head stops pounding.