No Kill No Beep Beep
By: Eric G.
Other than the infrequent Fugazi album, Dischord releases have not really been cause for celebration in recent years. Q And Not U categorically ends the bad streak, however. This is the best non-Fugazi Dischord release since Hoover's The Lurid Traversal Of Route 7 in 1994. Q And Not U boasts of familiar ingredients: squalling guitars, jagged rhythms, erratic interplay, and bratty but melodious vocals- all of which spells DC post-hardcore in giant bold letters, but Q And Not U will not rest easy being lumped into such an obvious pigeonhole. The band rewrites the book of modern punk in eleven songs.
No Kill Beep Beep- like any good punk album- makes you want to smash things up and dance and play air guitar until you can't stand up anymore. Ah, but before you put on your leather jacket and shave your head- be aware that this band is from DC, so traditional punk rules are out the window. This is the thinking man's punk rock. Predictable influences permeate each song from DC classics like Circus Lupus and Gray Matter to more traditional punk mainstays like Gang of Four and Public Image Limited on to more frantic punk acts like Drive Like Jehu and Universal Order of Armageddon, but none of them is overbearing or particularly dominant. Q And Not U fuses the best bits of its predecessors with carefully honed dynamics and a raucous energy.
The band smartly tapers its aggression with angular histrionics- that is to say the guitars flail by fits and starts while the rhythms remain steady and structured ("A Line In The Sand"). The discordant guitars do quiet down but only for calculated and effective build-ups ("Kiss Distinctly American"). The vocal interplay is just as abrupt and staccato as the music with varying degrees of singing and screaming. The hardcore roots are latent and only reveal themselves in occasional bursts of emotion as on the brilliant "We Love Our Hive." Since all four members sing, the band is able to incorporate varying vocal techniques into its complicated noise (like harmonies and call and response verses), but the most common style is that monotone half-yell made famous by the engineer of this record and proprietor if its label, Ian Mackaye.
Q And Not U has jumpstarted the wilting DC punk scene with this debut full-length. There is not a dull moment here. Even the slower songs lock into ace grooves and then dart off in unexpected directions ("Sleeping The Terror Code"). Despite all dissonance, Q And not U has an impeccable ear for melody, and even in its shrillest moments the band never leaves the catchy hooks far behind. This is by far the best punk album of the year, and I can't recommend it enough.