Besides being the bearers of the greatest seasoning (Old Bay), Baltimore is a weirdo musician's paradise. From rising stars Future Islands to Ponytail to Roomrunner, the mid- Atlantic city is the ideal environment for unapologetic, often epileptic fits of innovative post-punk and synth bands to consistently emerge in swathes.
Ed Schrader's Music Beat—comprised of Baltimore duo Ed Schrader and Devlin Rice—grasps at a time when indie pop was less mired in pretension, a free-form entity privy to experimentation. Their latest Party Jail relishes in scruffy instrumentation that oscillates between simple indie pop and unadulterated punk riffs, helmed by anthemic choruses and provocative lyrics grasping towards understanding.
Party Jail clocks in at thirteen songs and right about 26 minutes. In this short period of time, it courses through many dualities with ease, crafting little utopias and then directly following them with dystopian realizations—Schrader muses hypothetically on crucifiction in the piledriving “Radio Eyes”, speaks towards intense disillusionment in “No Fascination”. Perhaps it's a cruel irony that Party Jail was released roughly around the same time that the Party Monster Michael Alig was released from prison, but the record arguably depicts desire with the capacity to imprison instead of liberate.
Underneath Rice's chortling bass lines and Schrader's floor tom speaking in tribal incantations, one can hear that a sense of time and space is warped in this bizarre universe the two have built with bare hands. Schrader sing-speaks in the groovy “Clock Weather” of boys still wearing sheepskins, after all. One of the record's more melodic numbers, “Pink Moons”, speaks of rising fires and a world of “Sadie Hawkins every night,” while “Signs” features a pulsating freak-beat you'd expect a gaggle of zombies to get down to in the CBGB bathroom. What a world.
Choruses in numbers such as title track “Party Jail” and the record's thrashiest number “Teleman” assail the eardrums but manage to resound oddly mantra-esque at once. Digging past the fits of noise and poetic interludes, Schrader and Rice still amble towards that elusive thing we all desire: a connection. “Gimme all your signs,” the two plead on “Signs”. This direct line of reasoning—consistent on Party Jail—reverberates as a particularly tongue-in-cheek request that cuts past the subtlety, speaking towards a generation absorbed by screens rather than nuances previously gestured by signs.
We're all aware this world is uncertain. The onset of widespread technology and the splintering of social issues consistently gesture towards the very things George Orwell warned us against. Still, semblances of comfort remain, things onto which we can only try but latch on to—this includes the perfect flaky crab cake, a night out dancing with good friends, a challenging and enjoyable record like Party Jail in your hands, providing you with the solace that provocative art still being championed. I don't know where the future of music—let alone the world—is heading. But if there's one thing I know about beats, it's this: they go on.