Map, Monitor, Surge
Craw's music is painfully cathartic. Simultaneously, it is experimental,
rendering obsolete all notions of what elements the guitar/bass/drums/vocals
medium should or shouldn't entail. Craw creates exhaustive, confrontational
soundscapes which, as I have often witnessed, tend to alienate those
accustomed to a passive listening experience.
Map, Monitor, Surge has a less cluttered sound than past
Craw releases, but is by no means an accessible listen. Long-time
listeners will notice a newfound sense of band unity. This is in
part due to the permanent addition of drummer Will Scharf, who has been
playing with Craw for nearly 2 years, but has appeared only on two of their
recordings thus far (the Butterflies single on No Lie Music, and the Cancerman
comic-book single, released by Super Model Records).
Guitarist Dave McClelland said he considers Craw's sound to stem,
elementally at least from hardcore. This is not necessarily misleading
at face value, but Craw's music, while certainly aggressive, possesses,
as well, a stark, primal beauty that must literally be studied to be fathomed.
On Map, Monitor, Surge, the various "internal possibilities" of
any given passage are pushed further than on past releases. This is a
difficult concept to relate verbally, but even first-time listeners should
notice the clarity. Such songs as the opener, "Treading out the Winepress"
or "I am Gunk" showcase an exhaustive array of moods and rhythms. The
listener feels overwhelmed initially, but the arrangements are such that,
over time, each individual passage begins to seem more adequately highlighted.
Two aspects of Craw's music that have always served to create internal
tension are the unmistakable nasal howl of vocalist Joe McTighe, and
McClelland's shrill, free-form guitar interference patterns. On past releases,
McTighe unsettled the listener by running counter to rhythms or melodies
at every opportunity. While this effect has done umost justice to Craw's
largely entropic back-catalogue, Map, Monitor, Surge showcases
a band that is more streamlined and intelligible - but very undeniably Craw.
The perverse, jangly grooves evidenced by last year's "Cancerman" are
present (for example - the lopsided, thoroughly obnoxious riff which
dominates the middle section of "Rip and Read", the albums most unrelenting
song, and the 7/8 stomp which lends a sense of balance to "I Disagree (and
here's why)", as are their delicate, atmospheric passages, like the
dreamlike conclusion of "Creating the New Paranoid Man" or McTighe's
ominous whisper, backed by Scharf's organic, accentual percussion in the middle
section of "Treading out the Winepress". Comparisons to prior Craw releases certainly
abound, but they by no means eclipse the progressive effort here.
Joe Mctighe's vastly improved lyrics, which I have not had nearly
enough time to digest (incidentally they are available on the web at
"http://www.craw.com/", coupled with his clearest vocal delivery yet,
reinforce musical moods as never before. The band seems to thrive off of
McTighe and vice versa; these aspects of Craw's chemistry ensure a truly
disarming sense of clarity throughout, not to mention the fact that the
lucidity and sheer volume of the lyrical and musical components related
here are intimidating in their own right. McTighe often incorporates
elements of twisted humor (especially on Hayfield Jim's Texas Trip" and the
triptych of minute long "headline" songs: "Killer Microbes Devour Cleveland",
"New Plastic's Diet Alters Man's DNA", and "Parasitic Dad Evades Biocops").
During some of the album's more manic and depraved segments, the music
seems to follow his lead into this territory. McTighe has never been so in-command
of his delivery as he is here. I get the sense that his patterns owe less
to improvisational frenzies than on prior efforts. It is obvious that McTighe
has not lost sight of his original lyrical intent (which often involves
role playingand intensely personal narrative), nor does he come across
as any less intense or poetic.
There are a million other improvements (worthy of mention is the
infinitely more intelligible production courtesy of Steve Albini and
Bill Korecky - bassist Zak Dieringer is actually audible, and often dominant,
throughout the recording (although he has been turned up in the mix,
his method itself seems more assured as well); also Scharf really shines here;
he doesn't attempt to mimic ex-drummer Neil Chastain's mathematical approach;
rather, he utilizes and asserts jazz stylings simply enough to alter the Craw
sound from ground up; finally Brockway's punishing guitar rhythms
reinforce his role as Craw's anchor-man, remaining as blissfully undaunted
as ever). As a long time Craw enthusiast, I couldn't be more pleased with
Map, Monitor, Surge is on
Cambodia recordings, the not-so-fledgling-
antmore label owned, in part, and operated by Brockway. Craw and
Season to Risk
begin extensive touring which should last them well through summer (check
www.craw.com for tour information, lyrics, and any general news flashes.
-Hank Schteamer with the help of Adam Galblum