Mon Dec 22 2008

Jersey Shores, the sixth album from Seattle’s Akimbo, is a concept album about a mysterious spate of shark attacks in 1916. It reveals a band capable of intermittent brilliance, but still in need of focus. It’s a rewarding repeat listen but one that ultimately sacrifices sonic identity in favor of thematic definition. “Matawan” sets a familiar Neurot tone but proves to be much less a droner, the crescendos coming via riffage, not in waves. “Bruder Vansant” reveals a key to Akimbo’s success: It is not post-hardcore. It’s hardcore-plus. Relieves multiple symptoms, and won’t leave you feeling drowsy. A ferocious precedent is set, so that the moodier moments just keep you on edge. “Lester Stillwell” builds to a feverish peak that is frenzied but not-so-heavy. The guitar solo here is decent but mixed cruelly, as if the band wasn’t really comfortable with it being there. Eventually, the Man’s Ruin jam dissolves into a “Black Sabbath”-esque solitary riff before the opening chug of “Rogue” kicks in. This one DOES get heavy, the weight dropping Isis-like for what approximates a chorus, with some great ascending riffs in between. Jon Weisnewski’s voice still lacks depth, which he can blame partially on Chris Owens’s overall tinny, fragmented mix. The group’s big sound demands more atmosphere than a rundown practice space. Weisnewski still comes across hysterical enough not be undermined, though. Some more ranting might have helped a couple of slightly overlong meandering codas, actually. “Great White Bull” breaks out of one of these plods with a haggard “Mountain Song” variation, ending up in the lyrical climax; even musically, the song feels like an ending. The title track is an underture, revisiting the album’s opening riff and then playing like a compact retelling. It’s positively grungy for about five minutes, Neil Young via Sonic Youth, and finally the production fits. It leaves you wanting more than the short, melodic coda you get, but only because the song proper is so satisfying. It’s a great ending to an uneven record that shows more potential than realization, but after six albums, the band might not have too many chances left. In the vast post-Through Silver In Blood sea, Akimbo will need to take a more powerful swing its next time out if it’s going to get noticed.

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