Out Here

Heavy, not metal
Love American Style
One Ton Records

Caulk's debut EP Learn to Take wasn't metal, not really, though the novice could mistake it for such; it was actually pure noise heaped upon impure noise, and if there was an actual song to be found anywhere on the disc, you'd be hard pressed to find it, despite the titles on the outside. Learn to Take was brutal, abrasive, unadulterated, unforgiving, uneasy, a mess--hard to take, that is.

Which is why Love American Style comes as a complete surprise, though not an unexpected one from a musician and businessman as savvy as frontman Aden Holt: Here's a band that actually matured from one album to the next, one that has learned to control its temper and find the power in the caress and not just the vicious beating. Part of the so-called Fraternity of Noise that would also include Brutal Juice and Baboon, Caulk's the one band that knows something of subtlety, appreciates the space between the monotonous chug-chug-chugging riffs and boombastic drumming, understands that a point is sometimes better made spoken instead of always shouted.

Caulk's one of those bands that remind you punk was/is nothing but sped-up metal to begin with, so distinguishing between the two's not of such great importance. Caulk is metal solely by strict definition: thick guitar riffs booming and building toward climactic ends, speed guitar slowing down to an exhausted crawl without any advance warning, moans and groans and screams punctuating the words, lyrics heavily skewed toward the sick ("Baby girl on the dash/Arms ripped off/Legs bent back/Is she hurt or is that just you?") and the sexual ("Winona," in which Holt rhymes "Ryder" with "ride her"). And murder: "Little Man," though abstract in its telling, could likely be about Susan Smith's murdering her two sons by drowning them in an automotive coffin at the bottom of a lake.

Maybe it's supposed to be over-the-top funny (which is Brutal Juice's cop-out, and a lyric like "lettuce is much too pussy for them" will make you chuckle involuntarily at least once or twice), maybe it's supposed to be the geek's revenge ("I'll be the best/She'll be a fat girl"), but since nobody pays much attention to the lyrics anyway, even with the unnecessarily included lyric sheet, this music has to get by on the sound, which it does and then some. When Caulk isn't riffing it's tripping, bludgeoning post-boogie-punk giving way to Marcus Bloom's near-improvised psychedelic guitar parts that fly off into the ether never to be seen or heard from again. The result is powerful, dramatic, huge over time: Almost every song builds to a dozen tiny climaxes until it finally gives up, exhausted, spent, over.

--Robert Wilonsky

Caulk performs October 20 at the Engine Room (Fort Worth), October 21 at Club Argo (Denton), and October 26 at Trees.