I had been hoping to buy tickets to see Kristin Hersh, Rob Ahlers and Fred Abong in Salford on 22nd March, but I won't be in town. So when Abong's "Pulsing" EP dropped in my inbox for me to review, it felt like a kind of consolation. Listening to it for the first time was a bit like the feeling I had when I first listened to my brother's Velvet Underground's 1969 album. It invited a challenge. Where so much of mainstream music tends to play it safe, Abong, in true Newport Rhode Island hardcore punk style, just tells it as it is.
Don't be taken in by the gentle opening of 'Footprints'. It lulls you, then "Don't you tell me/You've been here before/Winter's coming/ And there's blood on the floor/Every footprint leads up to my door" begins an ascent out of singer-songwriter folk territory into something bordering on punk and psychedelia. 'Firefly' echoes underlying early Pink Floyd and Velvets influences with its restrained feedback build, and has become my personal favourite.
Others may take a different interpretation but my reading of the lyrics of the title track 'Pulsing' is that they describe the fear and dependence of drug abuse. It is a stark but strangely beautiful short song that holds its place well before the driving electric tones of 'Sum' kick in and move this excellent EP to a raunchier place. This continues through the final two tracks 'Meet Me' and 'Wire, with the mood of latter evoking images of dark, underground night clubs.
Because this EP comes at you from underground. It is at times raw, at times guttural and unapologetic. There are no long, introspectives here, just short, punchy songs in the punk tradition. There's also a synergy in that its release should coincide with the announcement on 7th March that Maxine Peake is taking on the role of Nico in a new production for the Manchester International Festival in July. A heroin addict, some of Nico's final few years were spent living in squats in Manchester and Salford.
I am disappointed not to be able to see Fred play in Salford this time around, because on this form it will be quite a show!
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