The melodic dissonance of JOHNS’ new album, Grift Marks (released this past Saturday via Peterwalkee Records), comes from a dark, post-industrialized corner of the world. Imagine Joy Division’s Ian Curtis growing up in the rust belt. Still, every track, every note on the newest release demonstrates a high level of precision. JOHNS may conduct a pathos of unbridled terror, but it is with great care, rather than sloppy angst, that quintet does this.
Multiple guitars from John Toohill and Nick Gordon leave their trademark scrape on the surface of every song, but with delicate harmony rather than chaotic noise. The dueling leads in “Wasteland,” for instance, intertwine to create a pallet for the track’s chanting, gang vocals. The guitar and bass hits in the chorus of “Erase Them” hit so hard because of the band’s attention to melody and countermelody.
While uniform in mood and composition, each track employs a different angle of performance. Some take a more particularly proto-punk angle; others are slower and more brooding. The album’s opener, “Nails and Walls,” balances the multiple efforts of the album in perfect synthesis: chimey, syncopated guitar and drums sit well under Toohill’s almost monotone screams of biting, visceral lyrics: “Traffic the tearing because they’re worth more/ spend all their time in a revolving door.”
Grift Marks plays with tight arrangements, but is thematically an altogether noisy and chaotic affair. It’s indeed quite refreshing to find a band so haunting and jarring, playing with the precision and ornamentation often disregarded by purists in similar genres of music.