Our take: Oh, Tenement... such a complicated band! I've been a big fan of these guys for several years now, and they've become acquaintances as well since they've made a habit of staying at my house when their various tours have rolled through North Carolina. The last time they came to town--on a big, Don Giovanni-centric tour with Priests and Vacation--I told them that I was excited for them, that maybe they would get out of their old habit of playing primarily with DIY hardcore bands and that their music might be able to find the bigger audience that it not only deserves, but also seems like it could reach. Well, now that I've heard their debut for Don Giovanni I no longer think that's going to happen... not because the record isn't good enough, but instead because it's too good. Predatory Headlights is an audacious record. Not only is it a double album, but it's a double album where there are hardly two songs that sound like the same band. Nearly the entirety of one side is taken up with a track that seems to combine elements of Indian raga, Gamelan, and free jazz. Even the poppy songs sound less like punk and more like Vagabonds of the Western World-era Thin Lizzy, i.e. dense, complex music that accomplishes that rare feat of having both riffs and melodies. It is, to say the least, aggressively eclectic, but there isn't one of these styles that Tenement isn't good at. And further, it doesn't seem like eclecticism for its own sake; it feels like the natural product of a band constantly pushing itself, questioning itself, and striving to be better than it already is, and as an extension to enlighten and enrich their audience. Such an approach is shockingly uncommon in punk today, when most bands are content to sound just like another band and the most creative bands are those that combine elements of two sounds into a "THIS-MEETS-THAT" description.
I won't really bother telling you what Predatory Headlights sounds like, because that would take too long. Instead, I'll tell you what listening to Predatory Headlights feels like. It's what I imagine listening to records like Double Nickels on the Dime or Zen Arcade or Let It Be (Replacements, not Beatles) right when they came out must have been like. As was probably the case with each of those records, Predatory Headlights is certainly not the Tenement record that, as a fan, I would have expected, or even the one I would have claimed that I wanted, but that's because listening to this record opens up more vistas than I knew were there before I listened. It is, to employ some obnoxiously over-used parlance, a disruptive record. Yes, there's plenty of satisfaction to be gleaned from listening to and appreciating a record that has been established as a classic by critical consensus, but it's a completely different experience to have the game changed right in front of you, to feel the earth shift beneath your feet. I feel like Predatory Headlights does that. So give it a listen, and I'm pretty sure you will either hate it or love it, but I don't foresee a lot of "meh" reactions to this one.