August 25th, 2011 | by CHRIS STAMM Music | Posted In: Upper Extremities

Upper Extremities #4: Arctic Flowers, Reveries

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A weekly punk rock column by Chris Stamm

I guess I should have written about Arctic FlowersReveries LP a few weeks ago, before the first pressing sold out, but I’m not here to abet collectors. Nope, I’m here to blather at you about amazing things you should be listening to, and I aim to do this blathering in a friendly and enthusiastic way that makes you actually want to listen to me and then listen to the thing I want you to listen to.

In short, I needed time to digest the album (driving around in circles with the windows rolled down, “Blue Healers” blasting, Honda Civic speakers shaking) before composing a proper and convincing mash note.

And so, with the second pressing of Arctic Flowers’ debut full length going the way of the first, I think it’s time you knew: Reveries is a stunning record, what you might call an "instant classic" if you wanted to annoy me. But I’d understand why you’d resort to such a hackneyed phrase, because what else are you gonna do? Haughtily drop the names of classic Portland punk albums that raised the bar Reveries so effortlessly clears? You would do that, wouldn’t you? Go ahead, then, mention Resist’s Ignorance is Bliss, Masskontrol’s Will You Ever Learn?, Defiance’s No Future No Hope and pretty much every other beautiful mess Kelly Halliburton ever got himself into.

To be honest, I’d do the same damn thing, because Reveries is that good, an album to return to 10 years from now when the ladies and gents in Arctic Flowers are in a million other bands that won’t be able to escape the “members of Arctic Flowers” curse.

My praise will come as no surprise if you’re familiar with this Portland quartet’s limited recorded output. This is a band that seems to have been born with a fully realized vision. “Blue Healers,” the aforementioned standout track, doesn’t sound all that different from the version on Arctic Flowers’ demo tape. It’s a tight three-minute summary of everything the band does so well, and Arctic Flowers was evidently sharp enough to realize it.

This is where I’m supposed to describe just what it is that Arctic Flowers does so well. And this is where I’m at a bit of a loss. Or, rather, my brain is teeming with innumerable comparisons, and sorting through the chaos up there is giving me a headache, and I just want to say that this album is a great punk record and leave it at that, because that’s kind of what it is: just a really fucking fantastic punk album by a band that is refreshingly reluctant to find a neat slot to slide into.

You see, Reveries is crusty—Antischism’s rollicking apocalypses were surely influential—but if I had to put an outfit on it, I wouldn’t keep its pants up with a bullet belt. And while it’s clearly indebted to the agitated sloganeering of the anarcho Crass Records crew (DIRT, The Mob, Flux of Pink Indians), there are melancholic, even gothic tendencies in Arctic Flowers—Alex’s plaints are delivered in a British accent and spooky register that might be the result of early exposure to Siouxsie and an adolescent fascination with Xmal Deutschland or something similarly dour—and the hybrid sound that results is thrillingly familiar without being some rote recapitulation of punk’s past triumphs.

To call it a timeless record is probably going way too far. It’s only been out for a month, and punk itself is only 35 years old, and I don’t believe in timelessness, but Reveries taps into that secret heart of punk that can trick me into believing that a song can somehow transcend the death that will claim all of us and everything we’ve made, and that’s a powerful, special place to access, and that Arctic Flowers can do it for a few minutes at a time is totally fucking radical, and I think you’ll dig this album as much as I do. Cool? Cool.

Blue Heelers (Demo Version) by arcticflowerspdx


More info: inimical.com

 
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