NOTCHES - "High Speed Crimes"
CD and LP in 2016 via Young Modern and tape on Cat Dead Details Later
Notches new full-length “High Speed Crimes” comes out of the gate with “Waiting For” an instrumental track with noisy guitar dripping with effect, bass string bends, and cymbal washes. This is not a pop punk record, or at least, it’s not JUST a pop punk record.
Vocal duties are shared between guitarist Ezra Cohen and bassist Zac Mayeux -- both Mayeux and Cohen have been fixtures in the seacoast music scene (featured in bands like: Billy Raygun, Heavy Pockets [formerly Little My], Betty Nico, and The Zambia) since either were old enough to hold a guitar. Drums are handled by the over-qualified Dante Guzzardi (not only an adept drummer, but guitarist and vocalist in the band Charles), who walks the line between technically interesting and viscerally driving rhythms constantly.
The songwriting on the record is rooted in pop punk sensibilities, but takes the platitudes of the genre and finds new and exciting ways to deliver. The band (all in their early 20’s) has (by my estimate) a collective 25 years of writing, recording, and performing under their belts, so it’s only natural that these songs have a maturity beyond the years of the band members.
It’s hard to pick highlights from this album, it all seems so thought out, but simultaneously off-the-cuff, youthful and fun. The chorus on “Going Great//Approximately How: Far Away?” is among the catchiest ever -- I’ve been walking around singing “So come on give me a break/ This house doesn't have a landline/ And it never could” for weeks now. This lyric stuck with me too, it’s like this whole band is lost in time, like Zac should’ve written this lyric in 1995 (who would ever lust after a landline anyway?).
“Summer Letters” is the shortest (non-instrumental) track on the release and one of the most fun on the album. The song starts with brittle guitar panned hard to one side so when the song kicks in, it hits like a cannon blast. Ezra spouts one of my favorite lines on the record “I’m laughing cause you’re freaking me out” and closes down the track with a crushing guitar solo.
My favorite instrumental bits of the release are when you hear the guitar or bass kick into overdrive and blow away from the rest of the instruments. “Mopey Dick” features the best instrumental performances on the album and has a unique tone that sets it apart from the rest of the album.
At this point, all the members of Notches have cemented themselves firmly into upper tier of the seacoast music scene. “High Speed Crimes” is certainly one of the best local releases of 2015 and more than holds a candle to larger scale national releases. Oh, and that part when Mayeux giggles at the end is pretty great too.
- Blake Joseph Seale Jr.