Filing the Oakland-based Clip'd Beaks into the 21st century noise-rock cannon is not the world’s easiest task. There’s not enough punk in them to put Clip'd Beaks next to a group like Pissed Jeans, whose Hope For Men made critical waves in 2007. Clip'd Beaks also can’t reasonably be compared to bands further down the harshnoise spectrum, like Black Dice and Lightning Bolt. The easiest way to describe them would be as a stripped down version of Liars, minus the overtly psychotic lead singer. Whether or not Clip'd Beaks follows in Liars' footsteps remains to be seen, but Hoarse Lords is a passable start.
If you find Hoarse Lords’ opening track, “Melter”, to be unlistenable, you are not going to like the rest of the album. Beyond that, you probably don't like noise at all. With dueling, discordant vocals, a heavy, monotonous bass line, and continual noisecore licks, “Melter” sets Hoarse Lords out to be neither the most challenging nor the easiest of listens. Underneath the overwhelming rhythm section, it’s almost impossible to tell what lead singer Nic Barbeln is saying. Steve Albini must have had a hand in this.
Hoarse Lords peaks with the third track, “Manipulator,” a showcase for bassist Scott Ecklein and drummer Ray Benjamin. Other standout songs – the title track and the penultimate “Black Glass” – continue to lean heavily on Ecklein and Benjamin. The catch is, it's tough to tell whether the Clip'd Beaks really give a shit about the music they're making. Durable noiserock bands are comparatively precise, and one doesn’t get the same sense with the Beaks. Then again, as a self-titled “psychedelic/progressive/thrash” band, precision might not be their goal. However, we're not talking Nirvana here – you're allowed to sound apathetic when you sing, not so much when you play.
However it has come about, Clip'd Beaks has a decent future ahead. Signed in 2005 to Oakland’s Tigerbeat 6 Records and now on Love Pump, Hoarse Lords is the Beaks first full-fledged LP. As of yet, they have no plans to make their way out of the Bay Area before summer, both unsurprising and unfortunate. If Clip'd Beaks continues to put anywhere near the same degree of energy into live shows as they did into Hoarse Lords, a concert will be well worth attending.