Friday, June 19, 2009

Statehood. Lies and Rhetoric (Self-Released, 2007)

"I feel confused because there's no sensation/ We lack a motive and we change our roles."

In February 2008, Statehood's lead singer Clark Sabine was diagnosed with cancer. On June 17, 2009, Sabine passed away at the tragically young age of 33, and the DC scene lost a true talent.

Statehood, a four-piece boasting the devastating ex-Dismemberment Plan rhythm section of drummer Joe Easley and bassist Eric Axelson, along with Sabine on vocals/guitars/keys and Leigh Thompson on guitars/keys, released their self-titled debut in 2007. The LP is a spot-on collection of classic DC-post-punk-style burners, with an emphasis on pummeling syncopation and a taut, live wire guitar attack, super tight and super catchy. Statehood bring a serious sound to the table, steeped in righteous anger and amorphous paranoia, with Sabine's edgy tenor delivering the vaguely political lyrics with force and desperate conviction.

Not surprisingly, Axelson and Easley are key to the band's success. One of the mightiest drum and bass duos of recent memory, these guys have an intuitive understanding of each other's approach and style, crafting rock solid rhythmic foundations on top of which Sabine and Thompson erect galvanized towers of six-string treble. Axelson, in particular, with his distinctly dub and reggae-informed playing, injects each song with a manic, basement-frequency energy, keeping the melodies deep deep deep in the pocket and freeing the guitars -- played by Sabine and Thompson with just the right blend of control and chaos, dual lines feeding off each other in a compelling serpentine system -- to slash and burn at will.

Each song on this LP stands in the shadow of District giants like Fugazi, Jawbox, Burning Airlines, and Faraquet. Plus, it was produced by ex-Dismemberment Plan guitarist Jason Caddell at Dischord's house studio Inner Ear, so this is about as DC as it gets. And that's just great, especially when you've got tunes like the throbbing opener "Story's End," flinty, panicked standout "Save Yourself," and the bracing "No, I Don't Think You Want to Know" up your sleeve. "Hidden Views" wraps jagged, hacking chords around fluid bass lines and chattering hi-hats, while "Disconnect" bobs along over waves of punchy low end as the riffs stab and echo and richochet, sawing ragged, awesome holes in the song's fabric.

According to a statement on their website, Statehood plan to release 10 songs recorded before Sabine's passing. Here's hoping those tracks see the light of day, and here's wishing Sabine's family and friends the strength to deal with their loved one's untimely demise.