On Shed by Title Fight + Cause A Stir by Charmpit
This is my newsletter so "classic" can mean 2011 and "new" can mean four months ago.
Welcome to the first installment of Something Old, Something New in which I present you with two incredibly long winded reviews. Today we are talking about two bands that exist in very different folders of my brain, Title Fight and Charmpit.
I have listened to Title Fight before. I was seventeen in 2014 of course I have listened to Title Fight. I just didn’t like them that much. I saw them live once with La Dispute and The Hotelier during the Hyperview era one day after I got my wisdom teeth out because I was, in fact, incredibly cool and punk.
My experience actually listening to their recorded music is one song on the warped tour 2012 compilation, my high school boyfriend who liked Hyperview, and my college boyfriend who I met on tumblr and that would occasionally make playlists to reminisce on his high school music taste. I missed the boat. I’m sorry to admit that.
But today, we listen to Shed. Last night I saw this tweet and it inspired this whole thing:
I always thought Shed had the coolest art anyway so let’s grab our headphones and give it a whirl.
I’ve listened to Shed in entirety three times over today, some individual songs a few more times. It’s easy to know why you like something, it can be harder to know why you don’t.
I know I find the opening track, Coxton Yard, jarring in a bad way as a start to the album. The second of silence before jumping into Ned Russin shouting feels unfinished and unintentional. But it’s a minute and a half and toward the middle it shows glimpses of the stuff I have in the past liked about Title Fight. Coxton Yard evokes Jawbreaker-esque frenetic energy as well as perfect punk song runtime. It’s one of two that give me a specific Jawbreaker feeling, the other being Stab. Coxton Yard gives way to the title track, the only song I’d heard before today off this album.
I’d heard it because Shed is the song on the Warped Tour 2012 Compilation. I always liked the riff, I really did. But I did usually listen to half of it then skip ahead to Rare by Man Overboard. Is that personal failure? A flaw in my personality? It’s really hard to say. I think Shed is a fine song and it works with the song preceding it. It’s a song I can easily imagine being played live which, for a band on the cusp of both post hardcore and emo punk, is a positive.
Flood Of 72 is forgettable. Shouty vocal, vaguely interesting riff buried here and there, feels impossibly long for a song under two minutes. Society feels like the way Tigers Jaw songs do to me. I like the instrumental, it’s well written (even though screaming “SOCIETY” at the end of your song is undeniably hilarious) and, again, the minute and a half run time is an asset to the feeling of the track. It’s quick and concise and I thought it made sense.
One of my favorite tracks on the album is You Can’t Say Kingston Doesn’t Love You. I think that’s pretty in line with popular opinion. Maybe that’s not true (I’m not gonna look it up) but it was always one people would post on tumblr as an audio post that would never ever work so I’ve just never actually heard it. I like that the riff takes a stronger place than in most of the songs before it without bogging the song down. There’s cool riffs all over this album but I can’t help but feel like they’re not showcased in any significant way on a lot of the songs. Crescent-Shaped Depression suffers this way.
I speculated upon first listen if Safe In Your Skin is the Side B opener on the vinyl. Found an image on ebay and that was confirmed. A win for the record. It flows into Where Am I?, the first song on this album that really jumped out at me as Really Special, beautifully. Some of my friends will tell you I don’t think any song needs to be over 2.5 minutes long. That’s not true, but I do firmly believe, especially in the case of a punk sphere, that time should be used with great intention. Where Am I? feels worth it despite it being nearly double the length of many of the other songs on Shed.
I have criticisms of some songs before 27 on this record but I don’t hate any of those. Then there’s 27 and GMT (Greenwich Mean Time). I remember people liking 27 so much (also getting tattoos in reference to it? Am i remembering that right?) and I have to say.. that is baffling. I really don’t feel that repetition does any service to this song because it doesn’t even feel like something to chant and isn’t encompassed by really compelling music. Someone explain to me what the draw is. Did they just play it live a lot? Why? If I didn’t know people really loved it I would write it off as forgettable but I know they do and it’s confounding.
Then there is the only song on this album that I think is firmly bad. GMT (Greenwich Mean Time). Holy shit does this song feel long. It starts off slow and meandering and I want it to pick up. I want it to get cool. I want it to get exciting. But it just slogs on until I’m begging for it to end. And here’s where we land, this is a perfect encapsulation of how I feel about Title Fight most of the time.
I think the reason Title Fight doesn’t connect for me, despite enjoying bands in their similar vein and enjoying some of their music, is because almost every song hits a point where I want it to be over and it’s so far from it. The songs by them I find interesting are the ones that pick up momentum and use the genuinely interesting riffs with Ned Russin’s very specific voice to create an impact. It’s frustrating to listen to a song or an album and find cool stuff in it that never builds to impact. Shed, for me, is a long 27 minutes of wanting more.
As I spent time today listening to this album I would say I don’t like, I thought about the idea that listening to music in albums is the better way to listen to music or the only way some people do it. To me, that’s ridiculous. There’s value in listening to albums you don’t like and dissecting them intentionally for something inspiring. There’s value in individual songs. Prioritizing the artistic intent behind an album as a whole does a disservice not only to yourself but also to the songs as individual experiences. Find songs that speak to you. It’s cool to love a song and not like the album it’s on. Curate your own listening experience. Let those songs live off their album and maybe one day go back to the album to see if you feel differently.
There’s good stuff on Shed and I’m a firm believer that good songs should be allowed to stand alone so maybe I’ll listen to You Can’t Say Kingston Doesn’t Love You and Where Am I? the next time I’m feeling inclined to revisit the blended emo-hardcore-pop punk moment of the 2010s I’ve always excluded them from. But mostly they’ll probably still just be a meme.
Charmpit is a band I listened to initially last summer because their record label, Specialist Subject, was doing this all dayer showcase. I bought tickets on a whim in March and spent several months figuring out how to get myself from Chicago to Bristol in August. A bunch of bands I already loved were playing (onsind! Me Rex! Witching Waves! Woahnows!) and it led me to checking out a load of other artists that I ended up loving. I see the UK diy/small indie scene from a distance but have written enough zine articles about bands within it that for almost the entire time I’ve been making zines I was sending more to the UK than America so it was super special to feel actually a part of it for a day. A lot of those bands kept me from falling out of interest with music during one of the worst depressive episodes of my life when American DIY felt uninspiring to me. I may never get to see most of them play again but it was special to get to do it at all. I’ll probably never stop talking about it and I’ll include a few photos from the day maybe at the end.
Charmpit is a London based band but formed out of two Californians, Anne Marie Sanguigni and Rhianydd York Williams, though grew to include Estella Adeyeri, of unreal bands Junk and Big Joanie, as well as Alex, whose surname appears unavailable (very cool). I could try to describe the vibe by when you have a self description as perfect as “PUNKstarPOP anarcho-cuties”, well, you don’t mess with it. It’s femme punk, it’s fun, it’s inseparable from its anarcho politics and ethos.
Cause A Stir opens with a song called Do It Together (First Timers), a reference to the band’s first live show at London’s First Timers Fest which is built on the concept that every set played is that band’s first set. It’s a bright step by step list of starting a band from gathering a friend and a friend of a friend to picking a name (“because that’s fun!”) to messing up on stage your first time (“because that’s punk!”). It feels like a direct response to the feeling of being an impostor if you haven’t played guitar since you were 10 and want to start a band or the idea that punk is only for groups of four men. It sets the tone for the album in its affirmation.
The opening track gives way to the flawless harmonies of Bridges Go Burn and Jimnastics. Princess Video ends on a triumphant assertion that you can run your own show and you’ll make it after all.
My favorite track is Sophomore Year, an anarcho anthem complete with Emma Goldman sample layered under an instrumental break:
Anarchism, a social philosophy which aims at the emancipation, economic, social, political and spiritual of the human race.”
Like every track on the album, Sophomore Year feels like a celebration of their passion for punk and anarchism and their places as femmes in both. The jangly guitars underscore the almost constant dual vocals of Anne Marie and Rhianydd throughout the album. It begs you to sing along and keep listening to the next track.
Muffy Plays Poker is another standout track for me. I love the bare instrumentation of the verses bursting into huge riffs front and center. There’s also nothing I love more than a sub-2 minute song.
While I listened to Cause A Stir today a few times, not for the first time but the first time with intent to discuss it, I read through a few interviews with Anne Marie and a few profiles of the band to understand the point of view Cause A Stir is coming from. This one from Gods In The TV is probably my favorite for the band’s ethos as well as Anne Marie’s perspective on judgement of femmes within punk and why Charmpit is punk:
Femme-punk representation is so low. It means things like people will call us twee. I’m like, it’s not twee at all. But just because you kind of like look femme, people are like that’s cute.
I mean, yeah, we like to feel cute but like… this is very, very punk. Like if punk is fucking saying fuck it to the people who have power, then people who have power in the punk scene are like people that wear black and want to be all like doomsday-ey and judge you all the time.
She also discusses how punk stretches outside music into activism and fashion, a topic that’s near to me personally. Punk should be about subversion of power and overt politics. Challenge what the perception of your art and yourself can be. It’s never too late to be entirely and unflinchingly yourself.
Now, as promised, here’s some photos of the Specialist Subject showcase last year:
Toodles and the Hectic Pity (maybe???)
and a bonus one from the bathroom upstairs:
Miranda Reinert is a zine maker based in Chicago until the end of this month in which she will be a zine maker and law student based in Philadelphia. Follow me on Twitter for more on music and other garbage @mirandareinert.