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Ought: More Than Any Other Day

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Montreal quartet Ought came together during 2012’s “Maple Spring”, Quebec students’ demonstrations against a proposed increase in tuition fees inspiring front-man Tim Beeler to put acoustic folk poetry on the back burner and embrace instead the rebellious spirit of electrified rock & roll. More Than Any Other Day, the group’s exceptional debut album, certainly sounds like a rabble-rousing call to arms, at least from a distance: Beeler’s vocals mostly alternate between a hardcore-inspired bark and sing-spoken passages where he comes across like some half-crazed TV preacher, and he’s never less than a commanding presence, leading band-mates Matt May, Ben Stidworthy and Tim Keen through a series of organ- and violin-augmented post-punk workouts that wrap knotty, Cap’n Jazz and Lungfish-inspired guitar lines around angular Gang Of Four bass-lines and crazy Feelies rhythms. As tightly wound as they are loose-limbed – and paired with unpolished, often live-sounding production that perfectly compliments the songs’ restless, volatile energy – the foursome at times recall furious firebrands like the MC5, but despite the urgency of their sound a closer listen reveals that Ought aren’t actually trying to push any particular political manifesto onto their audience: “I retain the right to be disgusted by life/ I retain the right to be in love with everything in sight” Beeler rants on “Gemini”, conveniently covering all bases, and whilst the snarls and sharp edges might suggest the stereotypical “angry young men”, they’re actually more inclined to encourage you to pick up “a textbook, or a magazine, or a novel (any kind of reading material will do)” than tell you to riot in the streets. They’re dreamers at heart, searching for answers to the big questions but still finding time to appreciate the small things (“I am excited to feel the milk of human kindness/ And today, more than any other day, I am excited to go grocery shopping”) or to tell the old man sitting opposite them on the train that “everything is going to be okay“, and if – when, as on “Habit“, he actually sings – Beeler sounds so much like David Byrne that you can almost picture him staggering across a stage in an oversized business suit, his mix of dry wit and wide-eyed wonder owes as much of a debt to the Talking Heads chief as his voice. On the one hand, this is punk that isn’t afraid of being romantic or poetic; on the other, it’s music made by idealistic, arty souls who are quite prepared to jump into a mosh-pit or throw awkward shapes on the dancefloor. Whatever the circumstances or shared beliefs that brought them together, if there is a message Ought seem keen to impart here it’s that life is short and hard to get a handle on, and that we should spend our limited time on this planet doing what makes us (and those we care about) happy; More Than Any Other Day – more than any other rock record in recent memeory – puts forward a pretty convincing case that music, in all its messy, raucous glory, can help us to achieve those goals.
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More Than Any Other Day is out April 29 via Constellation Records; check out “The Weather Song”  below and stream the whole thing via Pitchfork Advance.
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About foamhands

My name is Michael Dix; I'm a decade or so past being down with the kids, but to me new music never gets old. Apparently I like music that sounds like faulty kitchen appliances and ritual slaughter; really I just like what I like, whether that happens to be indie, pop, punk, hip hop, metal, electronica, Afrobeat or jazz. Follow me on Twitter @FoamHandsBlog to receive notifications of new posts and the occasional random brain-fart, and please share links wherever you can. Enjoy!

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