George W. Bush valued the merits of a pre emptive strike more than anyone and who are Greys to argue with his wisdom? The Toronto self described “loud rock band” have been compared to Fugazi so many times already in their nascent career it’s become massively redundant and so in tongue-in-cheek anticipation of the inevitable link that innumerable critics are bound to draw between If Anything, their debut album, and the Washington D.C. post-hardcore masters’ sound, they’ve named the opening track “Guy Picciotto”, in honour of Fugazi’s erstwhile guitarist and singer. Clever, eh?
The question, however, is do they even really sound all that much like Fugazi? The answer is yes and no. At times, singer Shehzaad Jiwani’s disaffected bark undoubtedly bears a resemblance to the other Fugazi singer and guitarist Ian MacKaye’s delivery but Fugazi were always tightly coiled, as if they were just on the verge of a savagely explosive attack, whereas Greys are nearly always on the attack, occasionally calming their storming guitars for choruses full of melody and full on call to arms sing-alongs. In the end, this debate is tiresome and just bloody boring. Let’s just unceremoniously deposit this pointless fan boy argument at the back of the closet and focus on the biggest question: is the record any good?
If there is a more impressive opening trio of “Guy Picciotto”, “Use Your Delusion”, and “Flip Yr Lid” released this year I will eat my collection of Kim Gordon’s naval fluff. “Guy Picciotto” is a raucous and concise celebration of the American D.I.Y. underground movement of the 80s. When Jiwani barks, “There goes my hero, he lives down the street from me”, he perfectly captures the attraction and inspiration those ordinary but iconoclastic musicians had, and continue to have, on disaffected youths pumping out Black Flag, Minutemen, and Husker Du records in their bedrooms. I mean, have you seen D. Boon of Minutemen or Bob Mould of Husker Du? These guys really were the weird, off beat nerdy dudes who live down the street. Greys’ message is if they can be in a rock band, anyone can.
In contrast, “Use Your Delusion” is slightly more expansive. The pace is not as breakneck, but still retains more energy than the vast majority of rock bands can muster up in today’s age of staid, neutered, advertisement ready limpness. In the grand rock tradition of Bruce Springsteen and Eddie Vedder, the song extols the virtues of getting the fuck out of a bad situation. A universal sentiment. “Flip Yr Lid”, expands on their core sound even further, incorporating a chorus in debt to, but not aping, Nirvana. A comparison to Nirvana is always a dangerous claim, but in this case it is not hyperbole; it is just fact.
Greys’ lyrics are perhaps one of the most impressive aspects of their oeuvre. In combination with the aforementioned “Guy Picciotto”, there’s the sarcastic “Chick Singer”. After a surprisingly Stone Temple Pilots-esque opening riff, Jiwani adopts the persona of a meat headed male gig goer watching a band with a female singer. He sardonically vents these idiot’s clichés of, “Can you believe she won’t give me her number? Yeah, you know which way they all swing”, “Put down that heavy guitar now, we all wanna see your pretty face”, and “She’s good for a girl”. This is a particularly apt tune in the wake of the debate about misogyny in music over recent months that has encapsulated everyone from Joanna Gruesome’s Alanna McCardle to Lana Del Rey.
With If Anything, Greys craft that rarest of commodities in the modern music world. A hard rocking album that is also smart and considered. It is a creation in debt to what has preceded it but also imbued with its own voice. In short, it’s damn good. Ignore the Fugazi comparisons. This is an album of the year contender.
If Anything is out on June 17th via Carpark Records.