Two Inch Astronaut are a band of two halves. On one side there’s the punk rock side that echoes Fugazi (especially in Sam Rosenberg’s voice) and labelmates Pile, who are arguably the kings of their underground rock scene. That other half ensures Two Inch Astronaut don’t play second fiddle to Pile, in the form of melodic emo music. It isn’t the emo music that’s generalised into sad boys in the early 2000s, it’s more the early stuff that Slint built their creepily spoken-word noise-rock on. The band have tightened up significantly since their debut, with the instrumentation beefing up on tracks like ‘Sexual Prince of the Universe’ which slips between angular riffs and pretty twinkles. Rosenberg’s vocals, much like the instrumental side of the band, can switch between hardcore yelp or something sweeter, shown perfectly on ‘At Risk Student’, where the chorus lets his voice float just above the band, or ‘Submission’.
‘Personal Life’ is where Two Inch Astronaut demonstrate how hard they can go, sounding eerily like Big Ups, albeit with handclaps. Rosenberg finally stretches beyond his shouting to a deathly scream. The lyrics are slightly less visceral, with Rosenberg yelling ‘So when I die will I become a fucking powerpoint for nutritional facts’ but mostly when Rosenberg is screaming it, the lyrics don’t sound as bad as they do written down because he delivers them like he’s being chased by someone. The instrumentation is jagged as they come, full of thick power chord thrashes and excellent drumming from Matt Gatwood. Two Inch Astronaut’s prettier side comes out on ‘Good Companion’, which is a beautiful acoustic guitar, piano violin track, which cuts off way too quickly after only a minute and a half, which is a bit like when Pile threw on an instrumental acoustic track onto their last album and it felt like a quick, quiet moment. However, there isn’t much filler on the album; it’s flab-free of mostly mid-tempo alternative rock. Two Inch Astronaut are good at what they do, but some variation into their harsher and quieter moments could have provided some more memorable songs on Personal Life.
The band are very promising, as they have so many sides that they tease that are yet to be explored
Rosenberg isn’t a terrible lyricist, but lines like ‘At risk student is a term / one that is used to describe / a adolescent that is less than likely to succeed’ often counter out a good lyric that he can throw in. Also, the instrumental moments on ‘At Risk Student’ or ‘Woodstock ’99’ show a side to Two Inch Astronaut that could easily extend into Modest Mouse-like jams. The band are very promising, as they have so many sides that they tease that are yet to be explored – hardcore punk, acoustic, hypnotic jams. Letting the band experiment and take their time might reveal a band that aren’t just one-trick, but for now there’s not enough shown to separate them from the crowd.
Funnel Recommends: At Risk Student / Personal Life / Woodstock ’99