“Real question: What bands have you discovered by staring at a patch on the back of someone’s jacket at a show?”
That’s a tweet and it came from the Washington Post’s Music Writer Du Jour Chris Richards only a couple weeks ago. It’s an intriguing concept for those of us who have been to a considerable amount of shows. Sometimes, we take the patches we see for granted, dismissing them as another glob of color taking up space in front of us as we focus on whatever musical act plugs in. Sometimes, though, we see the patch and think, “Hmm. Maybe I’ll check that out.”
Why wax poetic on patches? Because local punk-poppers Cosmic Halitosis feels exactly like a band that deserves its own patch. Driven by adrenaline, piss, vinegar, sweat and angst, this power trio deserves space on the back of an entire jean jacket with its debut LP, “Where Is She?” To say that these 10 songs are in your face is kind of like saying the music space at Guido’s hasn’t run a sweeper across its floor since 1985. The obvious is only half the story.
As for the other half … well, it’s unapologetically fierce. Opener “Shead” announces the group as accurate as any first line of a record in recent memory when singer Matt Henry proclaims, “I’m a shead and a half, I guess I’ve always been that way.” It’s offered on top of a clean guitar that feels like it came straight from an early Foo Fighters b-side. Naturally, it eventually explodes into the type of grunge that Dave Grohl’s other band helped invent, and yet when it does, it simmers down nicely, opting to end the track instead of fleshing the idea out further with verses and choruses.
It’s a trick Cosmic Halitosis perfects throughout the set and it ultimately heightens the anticipation for each venture coming around the bend. The other profanely titled song, “Mr. Ahole,” stands its ground more impressively, considering how it lacks the musical fervor of its closest rival. The chillest these guys get, the song echoes a Seattle band like Harvey Danger as it leans heavily on the type of bass guitar textures that are synonymous with the blend of slacker rock that dominated the world more than two decades ago. Bonus points go to Henry for his fearlessness in stretching his vocals to inventive lengths while the track’s first half unfolds. It would have been a slam dunk on WHFS.
And yet it isn’t entirely representative of the band. Instead, that award goes to songs like “STFU (Please)” and “Never Getting Outta Bed Again.” Curiously sharing an almost identical lead guitar riff as Max Detrich’s combustible drums blast both tracks into space, they are the epitome of what makes this collection a must-have for poppers and punkers alike. Clocking in at a crisp 1:40, the former is a declaration of demand, the NSFW hook proving to be as defiant as it is antagonistic, while the latter utilizes a catchy burst of electrified six-string before the verses commence. Sure, the songs are similar, but why fix what’s not broken?
Especially when it leads to “Intergalactic Infidelity,” which is both the set’s finale and its best song. Calmed down just enough not to alienate the mohawks — but rockin’ enough not to alienate the plaid shirts — it’s the moment where everything comes together. Complete with Henry’s signature sugary vocal manipulations, it rocks back and forth between a tempo cut in half and a tempo that drives forward, all beneath some killer shredding from the leader’s guitar once the middle section comes around. And … wait … is that a theremin!?! Sure sounds like it, and man, these guys instantly add about 500 cool points to whatever they have going on because of it.
The only thing revoking those points? The questionable first few notes of both “Cosmic Queen” and “Bid Adieu.” While this trio makes its bones rocking harder than anyone around, the acoustic textures that paint the beginnings of these two tracks feel shoehorned into the fabric of the production. It’s easy to understand why they would be looking for dynamism, but getting soft for the sake of getting soft doesn’t always translate well when your forte is pure, unadulterated belligerence. Or, in other words, go hard or go home — even if going hard in this context means fully committing to slowing down for the entirety of a song. Here, the moves feel token.
Still, such bellyaching is rendered moot when considering “Where Is She?” as a whole. Brazen in its delivery, profane in its soul, and unrepentant at its core, this collection takes no prisoners and gives less than a hoot about names. More importantly, it captures the naivety of inspiration and the arrogance of youth in ways that aren’t often seen in rock music anymore, cementing the fact that these songs combine to form one gigantic breath of fresh air.
Or, for that matter, one gigantic patch on the back of a sleeveless blue jean jacket somewhere in the back of a bar.
*** 3 STARS OUT OF 4 ***