For a genre founded on rebellion, punk operates under a relatively narrow set of parameters. There’s only so far the music can be stretched until it’s not punk anymore. You’d think that would be limiting, but those boundaries are part of what makes the genre so great, because they pose a clear challenge: how to make something unique out of music that’s so inherently familiar. That’s a tall hurdle, one that most punk bands never clear, but with their full-length debut Planet Skin, the Milwaukee trio Piles can count themselves among the elite handful that have.
Planet Skin divides its loyalties between two related schools: the full-throttle, rough-and-tumble punk of so many ’80s outfits and the more melodic sensibilities of that era’s underground rock. There are inevitable echoes of the bands that first excavated the boundaries between those styles—Fugazi, Dinosaur Jr., Sonic Youth, all the usual suspects—yet the record strikes a mood that’s all its own. The rhythms pummel with the speed and brutality of a street mugging, while the guitars cast a dreamy, sometimes downright pretty sheen over each track. That constant tension between beauty and menace keeps the record roiling.
-Evan Rytlewski, Shepherd Express
1. Blue Glue
2. No. 3
3. Free Zen