“Get out of my head!” shouts Greys’ Shehzaad Jiwani on If Anything’s fourth track, “Adderall”. More than anything else, the entire group seems to assume the intersecting punk/grunge aesthetic of Bleach-era Nirvana in this moment. Although the rest of the song fits into the noisier end of the punk spectrum, the chorus of “Adderall” seems to be the Toronto quartet’s way of paying homage to the grunge martyr (and if so, it’s much better than a crying statue).
“Adderall” is just one example of how Greys check their musical forebears on If Anything, their full-length debut. Distinct references to Unwound, Drive Like Jehu, Shellac, and Queens of the Stone Age can all be heard. And, whether or not it’s intentional, Greys end up sounding a lot like Toronto scenemates Metz at times. Amidst the voices of all these influences, If Anything finds Greys struggling to define their own voice.
The album begins with the ear-splittingly noisy “Guy Picciotto”, named after one half of Fugazi’s songwriting team. Ironically (and unironically), the song’s lyrics deal with music idolatry: “I want to be like him / everyday day in every way.” Although the music hardly resembles Fugazi, “Guy Picciotto” introduces the album in terms of Greys’ influences. “Use Your Delusion” (a play on the Guns N’ Roses album Use Your Illusion), makes use of chaotic guitars and overpowering drums much in the same way that Metz does. “Flip Yr Lid” seems to make references to Slint before becoming a slacked out and slowed down hybrid of noise, punk, and pop. “Pretty Grim” sounds a lot like “Use Your Delusion”, similarly drawing on post-hardcore guitar interplay and debauched time signatures, very much like Unwound.
If Anything remains very loud and very fast for the majority of its 35 minute runtime. That basically translates to a lack of dynamic shift, unlike Greys’ earlier music, which is what turned me on to the group in the first place. Drift, their 2013 Carpark debut 7”, encompasses three incredibly hardhitting songs that blister and burn before reaching the climactic midsection of “Pill”, a song that begins with yells and noise and evolves into a groove-based clean guitar interlude. It’s moments like that that are missing on If Anything.
“Lull” is an attempt to achieve this sort of dynamism; the track begins with slightly dirty guitar harmonics and understated bass, drums and vocals. It continues to get louder as Jiwani lays down his catchiest melodies to date. Then the song turns into a twinkly, poppy take on alternative rock. Here’s where I have trouble discerning whether or not the shift is supposed to be tongue-in-cheek; Jiwani sings, “See my face in the water/Smiling as I sink/Down to the bottom/Of this frozen lake,” and despite the juxtaposition of suicidal lyrics and happy melody, something feels slightly off (also pay attention to the shoddy vocal edit just before the 3:40 mark). After this odd section of the song, “Lull” rises back up again through heavy drumming and blissfully angular guitars, closing out the album on a noisy high note.
The best moments on If Anything are its most dynamic ones: “Chick Singer” and “Brief Lives” are two clear standouts. The rest of the album blends into a noisy, angry, and sardonic whir, never really rising and never really falling. If Anything finds Greys searching for their musical voice, but it's still a well-formed debut LP from a group that’s continuing to push themselves.