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Man Bites Dog, Gary's Place, Friday, July 18

After several songs of solidly played, if compositionally unremarkable, instrumental surf noir, Boogienauts finally captured the essence and peak of its genre: The dual guitar melodies and crashing drums caught the same wave and rode it out together. This happy ending was only temporary—lasting half of a song, maybe—but it did prove that Boogienauts are capable of reaching similar heights of their stylistic forebears.

Humiliation presented the same inconsistency—a case of a lot of talent not reaching fruition. For a ferocious hardcore band, the juxtaposition of the instrumentalists' imitations of grinding machinery and post-industrial noise with a singer who stared motionless into an audience as though it was a black hole in between fits of screaming made for captivating theater but unmemorable music.

With Womb Tomb, the hardcore was tempered with slower tempos, cavernous guitars, and varying moods which only increased the band's intensity. Sometimes resembling Rites of Spring borrowing Sonic Youth's equipment circa 1986; imagining heretofore unknown combinations at others—Womb Tomb was never less than spectacular and quite often much more than that.

Like Humiliation, Gay Kiss is a hardcore punk band from Phoenix, but this band was able to harness the charging horror only hinted at earlier. Gay Kiss was violent and unpredictable, but unified. The band also possessed—in execution and in theory —the militarization and mechanized chaos that distinguishes hardcore from the wildly individualistic notions of most early punk music. This is also why hardcore tends to be more frightening: A soulless bulldozer like Gay Kiss is a lot more threatening than one loose cannon. Gay Kiss' propulsion and inevitability made it feel more like a killing machine than a music maker, and this is where the band's greatness lies.

In this context, headliners Man Bites Dog acted out the aftermath of Gay Kiss' wide angle destruction. At times embodying the persona of the victimized and repressed, the band's songs sprinted, or lurched, or scraped themselves against the floor, but each one unexpectedly collapsed and died without warning. Man Bites Dog was terrifying to watch because the music played out as complete helplessness in the face of a malevolence, tyranny, and a world on the brink of implosion.

More by Joshua Levine

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