Sweep the Leg Johnny
It's no small wonder that the present-day bands (however preciously few they may number) who draw inspiration from a band as old yet timelessly fresh and singular as the Birthday Party end up sounding the most modern. Case in point: Sweep the Leg Johnny. On the six-song Sto Cazzo!, the Chicago quartet exhibit a number of the Birthday Party's swamp-gutter hallmarks - wiry shards of guitar skree, skronky saxophone, fucked-up rhythms, fat n' rumbling bass - but prominently eschew that group's roiling histrionics for the mathy discipline and Spartan sonics of Shellac, a stylistic consideration presumably swayed by their native city's post-punk history. However, that's not to say Sweep don't pummel: more accurately, they keep the chaos tightly coiled, their use of repetition working economically as deliberately misplaced/skipped beats and sinewy screeches of guitar step out of line every so often (best example: opener "The Fine Wrinkles; We Have All of Them"). Still, far as Spartan as Sweep may be, a dark undercurrent lingers on Sto Cazzo!, especially when the songs stretch into epic time-lengths (the 10-minute "Columbus Day" and the 8-minute "The Blizzard of 1999"). In short, records like Sto Cazzo! are increasingly rare these days, but are further proof that post-punk is far from dead.
Southern Records, P.O. Box 577375, Chicago, IL 60657; http://www.southern.com
Nathan T. Birk