Hey, we’re all angry these days. Day in, day out, it feels like all there is to do it kick against the pricks or kick out the jams - sometimes both at the same time. But what do you do when all your righteous anger gets caught up in the mesh of the daily grind? When your despair at the world (and hey, it’s boiling over with right-wing fuckheads, senseless violence and the sort of oppression you might once have idealistically hoped would be a thing of the past by now) is a regular, everyday occurrence, as much a part of your daily routine as getting your caffeine fix in the morning?
If ever a sound articulated that feeling, it’d be Public Eye’s second album ‘Music For Leisure’. Written in the wake of the US presidential election in 2016, and surrounded by the sinister political voices that seemingly felt legitimised by you-know-who taking the White House, it’s the sound of fury, righteous indignation, disillusionment and dejection, all wrapped up inside booming elliptical basslines, staccato guitar stabs and pithily spat summations of the American dream. Opening track ‘Descending’ has an air of much-loved gloom-rockers Protomartyr in its monochromatic rumble, but the album’s main musical inspirations come from the punked-out nuggets of the infamous ‘Killed By Death’ compilation series, under the shadow of Wire’s art-damaged racket.
Formed in Portland, Oregon in 2016, Public Eye’s membership takes in three-quarters of notorious punks Autistic Youth, but while that band’s take on rock’n’roll was straight-ahead and speedy with it, their new outfit find more inspiration in nuance. ‘Neat Machines/Red Flags’ slashes at your eardrums with subtly jerky time signatures and angular jangles, before vocalist Nick Vicario remains impassive throughout its tastefully melodic second half. Then there’s the album’s greatest moment: the unabashed skronk of ‘The Duet’, which builds to a glorious final minute that sounds like Parquet Courts setting themselves on fire at a free jazz festival. Chaos, in other words, but chaos with the best kind of discipline. Repeats plays reveal greater treasures, and it’s the perfect album to block out (or echo) the buzzing pressure on your brain that comes from trying to get through day-to-day life in this increasingly weird era. Beyond that, it’s just a really fucking good record. Listen now and save yourself.
Our take: It’s funny that Public Eye’s first album was titled Relaxing Favorites and this new one is Music for Leisure, because those titles perfectly capture Public Eye’s off-the-cuff approach to punk. I’m sure they put plenty of work into their band, but the recordings—this new one in particular—have a carefree slacker vibe that reminds me of Pavement. The songs amble at stoned-sounding tempos and the vocalist sounds like he rolled out of bed hung over and walked up to the microphone. While the slacker vibe reminds me of Pavement, sonically this is more in line with something like Parquet Courts, particularly the way Public Eye balances pop song craft with more jammed-out, Krautrock-informed elements and even a bit of avant-garde stuff like the skronky saxophone in “The Duet” and “You’re Being Laughed At.” If you’re into thinking person’s punk that aims at an audience wider than Maximumrocknroll’s former readership, this is a good grip.