We are thrilled to premiere Pet Clinic’s full-length debut No Face, streaming now on their website. Following 2012’s six-song EP The Dust That Made The Fire That Made The Light, the Pittsburgh five-piece is back with ten songs that reach new depths of songwriting and production. Levels of detail and concept reach points of obvious intent. Every part, every piece, every production decision sounds thoughtful and deliberate. Where The Dust demonstrated the band’s ability to write and record songs, No Face takes the leap to full album craftsmanship. Recorded by the band in their Troy Hill house and mixed/mastered by Pittsburgh’s Jake Hanner (Donora), the band takes what they know and harnesses a new sense of composure and confidence. Like a tractor trailer headed down the highway, Pet Clinic moves with authority and power, seeing the open lane and taking it. Lead single “Sick Witch” hits immediately, twisting and manipulating the main riff into chaotic hooks. Lead singer David Bubenheim shrieks and howls with more mastery than before. We knew it was there as anyone who heard “Stop Wasting My Precious Time” could say. But on songs like “Science of a Situation” and “Deep Sea,” Bubenheim wrangles multiple tones with his dynamism, shifting the colored vision from blue to red, from light to dark. There’s the classic quiet/loud turns from chorus to verse, but as those dBs switch, so does the exposure, burning and dodging into overdriven tape. Many will find similarities to 90s acts and even early aughts bands like At The Drive In or Interpol, but what Pet Clinic has managed to do with No Face is develop the Pet Clinic sound. Grand and heavy, a song like “I’m Alive” is as much home in an arena as anywhere else. The vocal hook in the chorus is just heartbreaking in the most beautiful way. “You’ll see I’m not dead,” Bubenheim sings and affirms with a howl that reaches into cavernous washes of fuzz and cymbals. Keyboardist John Henderson’s contributions have been broadened, surpassing his normal flourishes into something wholly encompassing. Soundscapes are mangled into a twisted nighttime synthesis. Likewise, guitarist Mike Arendt utilizes an array of stompboxes to create long decaying echoes, blurring the lines between shadow and light.
What is most impressive about No Face is how the band was able to take their sound and layer it in ways that don’t sound repetitive or forced. Instead we are taken along, sitting shotgun as the tractor trailer cruises through the night, headlights lighting the way, insisting we are alive with every mile marker reached. Boldly proclaiming we are here, we have arrived and we will keep on. In our interview with the band, Henderson says, “A person’s identity is actually defined for them through the judgments of a larger culture. Do we have a true authentic face?” I suppose the band’s answer is in the creation of this album, that through our actions of deliberate choice we begin to define, for ourselves, what our face looks like. Of course, it seems obvious to say don’t judge a book by its cover, but if the cover is only a mask, perhaps then we relinquish our stereotyping and can truly be free to roam, to sing, to discover what it means to be alive.
Listen to “Sick Witch” below, and tonight when the band plays at Spirit.