Album Review: It's Casual - "The New Los Angeles II"

Answering a question no one asked can be a dangerous enterprise, because the greatest uncertainty involved is in assuming someone cares about the answer. It’s Casual, the punk-ish band with roots in Los Angeles, is the erstwhile answer to the question “What would a mix of Black Flag and Rush sound like?” While that question seems to land on the spectrum somewhere between ‘untenable’ and ‘impossible,‘ the evident answer lies in the band’s new record “The New Los Angeles II”

The album is built around a sense of poignancy concerning what one can only assume are social issues plaguing the greater Los Angeles area. The band isn’t exactly hiding in it metaphor with song titles like “California Is Not An ATM Machine,” and “TAP card.” Naturally, unless you’re from LA, there’s some value lost here, as the context of the songs has little relevance elsewhere.

Of course, the music is the focus, and that’s where It’s Casual paints a perplexing figure. The in-your-face-point-blank lyrics point to a true punk style, but the guitar tone and occasional wandering pace indicate the promise of something more.

It all begins (and coincidentally ends,) with the vocals of one-man army Eddie Solis, who goes for a sort of Henry Rollins speaking shout, but his voice is ill suited for the classically warm punk tones beneath. Each ninety second or two minute bite of song is laid down with a capable, hooky punk riff, but Solis’ scream is too abrasive and distracting to create a cohesive product. (Side note: this same tactic ‘worked’ for Wesley Willis, but that’s a whole different kettle of fish, and was probably unintentional.) Pick a song, whether ‘WIC’ or ‘Live Food,’ or any other; they all fall into the trap.

There is one slot for the musicianship of It’s Casual to shine through, and this is where the Rush comparisons come in. The sudden and unexpected nine-minute instrumental interlude “The Gap is Widening” is brilliant both in writing and execution. The guitar tones, drum fills and galloping feel are all very “Moving Pictures” and while this marathon displays no particular virtuosity, it doesn’t need to, either. In this case the pieces, from the opening riff to the breakdown to the return, all work independently and in concert. It’s by far and away the shining gem of “The New Los Angeles II” and well worth your listening time, no matter how out of place or out of idiom it seems.

So that’s really the story on this record. If you’re form LA it probably holds a little but more water, but other than that, this album’s best moment makes you wonder why there isn’t more.

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