Philadelphia’s Mumblr describes a visceral universe on debut full length, Full Of Snakes. From the album cover of the band’s genitals barely censored by the font of the title, a visual stunt that works on two levels, the band relentlessly chase a screaming and fuzzy architecture of immediacy: We will remove our clothes; we will bare other things, too. Lead singer Nick Morrison first relates and then yelps, “I got it if you want it” on lead track “Got It”, a song that pays more than passing homage to the Pixies quiet-loud dichotomies. These passing footnotes to the band’s predecessors represent the last sense of history, favoring instead an ever unfolding if often troubling vision of what it might be like to live right now.
Full Of Snakes, Mumblr drummer Scott Stitzer’s term for being extremely hungover, evolves, largely, in less than three minute compartments. The form feels instinctual. The aesthetic here isn’t a troubled afterglow—Stitzer’s anxious withdrawals—but rather the thrashing and confusing minutiae of daily existence. The phone message that acts as track six discusses a stolen bike, a broken friendship, examining the wide variety of grammatical expressions of the word “fuck”. The clattering conclusion of many of the tracks indicates a vision of progress, maybe even development. “White Devil” teases its chorus, “fuck, there’s a guy with a gun on the back of the bus”, into yelled and satisfying repetition, even amid a narrative that imagines reaching across racial lines in a fashion this writer isn’t entirely comfortable with. It clearly isn’t racist but the racial overtones of even a track entitled “Black Chicks” discomfits, but perhaps these are the shambling steps toward self-possession and maturity that Full Of Snakes deals with in both lurid and subtle fashion elsewhere. In fairness Morrison softens—or is it prepares?—the listener with the wry lyric “I think I’m post-race, unless I’m just an idiot” in one of the album’s first lines. Lyrical and titular content aside in “Black Chicks” and “White Devil”, “Got It”, “Philadelphia”, “2012” follow their same sonic trajectory, arrangements that head for a sawing conclusion near the floor.
The lyrical content of Full Of Snakes reveals coming of age tropes, though markedly without any pretense of bucolic nostalgia. Romance firmly removed, Morrison leads the listener through songs like “Slut”, “Masturbation”, and “Roach” in the album’s second half. At times the lyrics and angular guitars recall the best moments of early Modest Mouse. Issac Brock’s depressing Pacific Northwest is replaced by Morrison’s Philadelphia with no less sense for melody and blighted arrangements that threaten to unwire at any moment. Morrison never strays from a clear sense of having offered himself completely, no regard for shame or stupid, normative characterizations of pride. He admits “I’m freaking out, outside of your house” on “Sober”, a delicate reversal of heteronormative masculinity cliches without fetishizing obsession. “There’s gum on the floor, and I hate myself,” Morrison sings on the soaring “Black Chicks”. Some of the personal toll of carving this pound of flesh for his listener is obviated by writing as characters that are clearly not the artist himself, but he never strays far from the personal.
The overwhelming sense at the end of the 17 tracks that comprise Full Of Snakes is that Morrison tore himself to pieces for your enjoyment or benefit—it’s unclear which. The vignettes describe familiar misanthropy of youth: “We grabbed our snacks and got high under the overpass.” The band stumbles on toward self-possession, one tight, hook-heavy arrangement after another. Anxiety always attends fixations on the immediate. The implication: We are here now, but this too can’t possibly last. The record ends with its second longest track, the aptly titled “Grave”. If these unsexy meditations really are growing up, it’s amazing any of us ever get there.