Friday, June 1, 2012


The Kraken



I'd never seen Nasalrod before they popped up at The Kraken, a last-minute show set up to maximize their Seattle time, up from Portland.  I showed up after work, missing the always-awesome Burning of I (sorry about that, guys) to throw some support for an out-of-town band that contains two of the three members of Lickity... and that was as much as I knew about Nasalrod when I stepped into the club.

Nasalrod is drums, bass, guitar, and vocals, and the members it shares with Lickity (Justin on guitar, Tim on drums) do not bring Lickity's mission statement with them-- Nasalrod have no synths, the beats aren't influenced by drum 'n bass, and they are entirely their own animal: Chairman (vocals) and Kat (bass) are the band's founding members. The group defies easy description, but they definitely have some of the characteristics of the post-hardcore movement (driving energy, hard corners, athletic changes), as well as some noise rock, some straight up punk, and even some propulsive dance energy... some or all of which can be thrown into the mix in any Nasalrod song, at any time.  This band does not believe in boring; their set was dynamic, energetic, and always engaging.

I've now seen three bands with Justin on guitar and I'm willing to claim he has a "signature" sound (he plays high on the neck quite a bit, and has a big, bright midrange) that I'm sure I could pick out of a blind listening line-up, Pepsi Challenge-style... he's fast becoming one of my favorite players in the Pacific Northwest.  Because he doesn't tend towards low, "chugga chugga" style playing, Justin doesn't eat up the low frequencies, and there's a lot of space for the kick drum and the bass to push the rhythm along.  Kat's bass and Tim's drums drive the bus, so to speak, with an Kat providing the angular, stomping drive and Tim (who's actually got a better punk rock rap sheet than most-- look him up sometime) locking in for tight, constantly changing, forward-moving beats.

I know a guy who's contended, on more than one occasion, "Singers ruin bands," his complaint being that a group of talented players putting together good music can be undercut by putting their limited-range, poor-note-choosing, charismaless buddy on a microphone; I see that kind of thing often enough to usually agree to the complaint... and then there's Jeffrey "Chairman" Couch, who can seemingly channel David Yow or Dave Brockie or Jello Biafra at any given time, often in the span of one breath, while jumping off the bannister by the Kraken doorway and stomping around like a madman.  The vocal pivots and changes in direction in Nasalrod are as mad and varied as the instrumental ones: not only can he carry a tune (rare enough at any show), but he can front a song with a variety of voices, characters, and styles, transforming from sharp, staccato bursts to swooping notes to holding a melody as the song evolves from one part to the next.  Chairman's irrepressible stage show might even win over showgoers less receptive to some of Nasalrod's weirder charms.

Then again, I go for weird... I lock into changes in time signature and temp, or just atmosphere and mood, the way some people focus on lyrics.  Somebody who doesn't particularly obsess over those things will probably see Nasalrod as a fun, energetic show, with lots of accessible hooks and well written songs.  They're too off-beat to just be a rock band and too ferocious to be called pop, but the songs are unimpeachably good and the show's a lot of fun.

I'd recommend them to just about anyone.  If Nasalrod's coming to a club near you: go.

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