Daily Dose: Writhing Squares, “Barbarians”

Music Features Writhing Squares
Daily Dose: Writhing Squares, “Barbarians”

Philadelphia’s Writhing Squares return in April with a new full-length called Mythology, and give us our first taste with the release of the single “Barbarians.” It’s a heavy banger that owes a lot to Fun House-era Stooges and the general bad vibes clouding pretty much all of existence today, which makes it a dangerously potent slice of the good stuff.

It doesn’t quite start off there, though. After a brief, maybe unnecessary intro, the song’s main guitar line jerks into view, and its curt, clipped rigidity initially drops us onto some mathy grounds. When the growling vocals and chugging guitar chords of the verse first come in it briefly evokes something like a Foo Fighters demo, like some kind of prenatal arena rock waiting to be fully born with the Neve 8028, and that’s not the most encouraging place for a song to go.

Fortunately “Barbarians” pounds down the gate after the second verse. The rhythm loosens up and almost starts to swing a bit, and a saxophone erupts with some melody. It all blossoms into something truly glorious around the three minute mark, the whole band slamming through that riff with abandon, and the sax cutting through it all with a sleazy free jazz skronk. It’s a much-needed chaotic contrast with the fairly pedestrian verse, which is recontextualized as a powerful but controlled counterpoint to the heavy jam that is “Barbarians” when it appears for the third and final time after that first full outburst. Seriously, by its final minute “Barbarians” hits a level of full-bore sledgehammer repetition not seen since the best days of Oneida and Laddio Bolocko, but with that sax spewing all over everything. It’s a marvel.

There are lyrics. What’s he saying? Who knows. Does it matter? Maybe to Writhing Squares, but we don’t need to know ‘em to dig it. “Barbarians” very much sounds like a modern underground scuzz rock take on the Stooges, and it’s perfect that Writhing Squares are from Philly, the de facto underground rock capital of the last decade or so. It’s an ultimately overpowering introduction to the band for neophytes, and a warm welcome back for the old heads. It must have been a no-brainer to make it the first track on Mythology, which arrives via Trouble in Mind Records on April 26.

Listen to “Barbarians” below.

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