$1 Beer Night:
big syn, reivers, work party
$1 Beer Night is a weekly concert series that makes going out to hear great music more affordable. With a five dollar cover, discover upcoming artists and enjoy Pabst Blue Ribbon beer for $1.
Big Syn is weird. But it’s great. Their off-kilter art-pop is a streamlined collage of sound and experiment. Sometimes it sounds like rock music, other times the soundtrack to a sci-fi novel about actual synthesizers taking over the world. Once you latch on to one of these shifting sounds, you’re pulled into their dark carnival until you can find some hidden door to get out.
Like the best rock music from the Pacific Northwest, the sound of Reivers is somewhat overcast and lacking in just the right amount of Vitamin D. Bright light comes from Erin Page’s high energy vocals – I love it when she boldly sends a major tone soaring over the band’s minor tone muscle and murk. Thank you, Chicago, for birthing this sonic baby – the rest of us should be listening to it grow.” – Stephen Brodsky (Cave In, Converge, Old Man Gloom, Quicksand, Mutoid Man)
The band (Erin Page guitar/vox, Greg Hamilton guitar, Dave Frush bass, Alan Mayne drums) will be releasing a new song on April 6, via their Bandcamp page. A limited edition cassette EP with a hand screened jacket will be released at the show containing 4 new songs recorded at Electrical Audio by Stan Wood. Post show, the songs will be released on all digital platforms.
Aggressive music can very often take itself far too seriously. The uniform of black t-shirts, the unnecessary walls of amplification, the smile-free promo shots; it often leaves one wondering if the band gets any enjoyment out of anything. For Chicago’s Work Party, their motivation is simple — to have more fun than any reputable doctor would recommend.
Following the demise of War Brides in 2019, guitarist Grant Craig and brothers Tristan Widloe (vocals) and Justin Widloe (bass) still wanted to keep making music, first and foremost for their own amusement. However, they wanted to change up their approach to songwriting. “I got tired of hyper complex stuff” says Craig, commenting on his previous band’s output. “I feel like this record is kind of a reversion back to the music we grew up on; taking stuff from 80s hardcore, but approaching it with the sensibilities that we have now.”
Work Party’s debut album My Best Days Are Behind Me, set for release on October 1st on Milwaukee’s Triple Eye Industries, is certainly a departure into more straightforward songwriting for the trio, who are joined by drummer Brandon Syph (formerly of the Chicago metal band Snow Burial) in Work Party. The album draws on classic 80s hardcore acts like Black Flag and Circle Jerks, filtering those sounds through the jagged post-punk of Wire and Gang of Four, along with the moodier sounds of Joy Division and Bauhaus. Straightforward, yes, but there’s also plenty of depth on this album.
“There’s more variety instead of just having the energy be at 10 the whole time,” says bassist Justin Widloe. “I think when it came to writing, we were really focused on what best serves each song.” My Best Days Are Behind Me was recorded over the course of a few sessions at Electrical Audio by renowned engineer Greg Norman. More than just a document of the band’s first collection of songs, Norman’s work captures the band’s strength as a singular unit, with panoramic guitars and a tight, pummeling rhythm section working together to provide an unbreakable foundation for vocalist Tristan Widloe to build upon.
Much like the band’s desire to construct songs that were more approachable, Widloe also had a desire to change his vocal and lyrical approach, replacing his Unsane-esque growl with a style reminiscent of early Killing Joke. Lyrically, Widloe decided to write from a less solemn place. While it’s no small feat, Work Party has succeeded in joining the ranks of acts like Pissed Jeans and Mclusky as a serious band with a smarmy sense of humor. “I’ve gotten less serious as I’ve gotten older,” says Widloe. “I feel like I’m hitting my stride as both a lyricist and vocalist, getting more into the punk approach of things that I grew up with.”
Tracks like “Average White Man,” which touches on the mundane occurrences of domestic life, and “Pure Michigan,” written solely about Tim Allen’s 1978 cocaine arrest, show the band’s ability to meld their sense of humor with more serious themes in a way that works seamlessly. This desire to simplify has resulted in a batch of songs that are simultaneously concise and energetic. There’s a slight flirtation with major chords, tasteful sprinkles of piano, and shorter, more straightforward arrangements that make My Best Days’ 10 tracks an easy listen.
That isn’t to say that the album is a foray into pop rock, though. The album has the energy of 70s post-punk and early 80s hardcore, but arranged into incredibly palatable compositions. It’s a very pop approach for non-pop music — catchy and forceful, the album’s half hour runtime sounds like a collection of first takes, with every song attacked with a sense of urgency and confidence. My Best Days Are Behind Me is slated for release on October 1st, 2021 via Triple Eye Industries.