Loisville's XERXES have always walked the edges of the hardcore scene, mixing fast paced disonent angst with post-rock influenced melodies. Yet on their latest release, Collision Blonde, Xerxes seems to be flirting with up beat pop tunes while retaining some dissonant breaks and dark vocals. I saw XERXES in a North Philly basement maybe 5 years ago. They were loud, intense, and dramatic. It was clear then that they were not long for the world of hardcore, even if it were the jean short, Deathwish influenced variety. The band has undergone some dramatic line up changes since them, and judging by the mood of their latest record, some dramatic life events as well. Their sound was dripping with a certain dramatic darkness previously, even if that crashing noise always had an almost Mogwai style melody mixed in. Collision Blonde leaves that behind entirely. There are the rhythmic poetic breaks of older Me WithoutYou as well as the goth intensity of Bauhaus mixed in. There is something dangerous here, a willingness to move into more approahable melodies while dragging the vocals from the basement with them. I am reminded not only of MWY but also of Touche Amore and the much lambasted, with good reason, La Dispute. However, while La Dispute has always struck me as a failed attempt to make MWY vocals work with boring post-hardcore played at its most basic level. Xerxes is doing something unique here.

This is the difficulty we face whenever a band begins to move on and try new things. I was never a huge fan of their old material, but I enjoyed it. It was music that reminded me of the excitement I first felt when hearing old Envy tracks. Something that was as angry as anything else I loved, but dealt also with emotions at a more vulnerable level. The music was perhaps a bit pretentious, but these were kids, inclined to imbue their music with something dramatic and dark. Their first lp, while hinting at some more melodic elements, was large and dark and bombastic. It was too much in some ways, but it was admirable. This new record is somehow smaller, it's jangly riffs and upbeat breaks take up way less room sonically, yet also more ambitious. I Was Wrong starts off low and comes in loud and frantic, yet immediately with Criminal, Animal, the second track, we are hit with something Aaron Weiss and the boys could have put out. This marriage of harsh vocals and post-punk rhythms is certainly familiar, but again I think there is something unique about Collision Blonde. It perhaps borrow in just the right ways from its various influences, allowing for moments that feel like world collisions of sound. Perhaps it is the conviction of it, the willingness to to almost cross over into death rock at one moment, and then indy rock chill the next. If you want something to beat ass to, this is not for you. However, there is something surprisingly kinetic here, that just works. It is a strange mix, this insistent screaming with music that does not demand as much you, yet somehow they make the balance work.

Have XERXES discovered a new genre, some sort of Level Plain Records worship with Death Rock hybrid? I am not sure. This may be a mutant that dies after this, a strange abberation that fails to work anywhere after this record. It is not entirely new, and I can see fans of Touche Amore, La Dispute, and MWY really loving this release. It does what all those bands do a little different though, something more frantic and visceral, and that makes it work for me in a way that La Dispute or Pianos Become the Teeth does not. Loisville's XERXES have always walked the edges of the hardcore scene, mixing fast paced disonent angst with post-rock influenced melodies. Yet on their latest release, Collision Blonde, Xerxes seems to be flirting with up beat pop tunes while retaining some dissonant breaks and dark vocals. I saw XERXES in a North Philly basement maybe 5 years ago. They were loud, intense, and dramatic. It was clear then that they were not long for the world of hardcore, even if it were the jean short, Deathwish influenced variety. The band has undergone some dramatic line up changes since them, and judging by the mood of their latest record, some dramatic life events as well. Their sound was dripping with a certain dramatic darkness previously, even if that crashing noise always had an almost Mogwai style melody mixed in. Collision Blonde leaves that behind entirely. There are the rhythmic poetic breaks of older Me WithoutYou as well as the goth intensity of Bauhaus mixed in. There is something dangerous here, a willingness to move into more approahable melodies while dragging the vocals from the basement with them. I am reminded not only of MWY but also of Touche Amore and the much lambasted, with good reason, La Dispute. However, while La Dispute has always struck me as a failed attempt to make MWY vocals work with boring post-hardcore played at its most basic level. Xerxes is doing something unique here.

This is the difficulty we face whenever a band begins to move on and try new things. I was never a huge fan of their old material, but I enjoyed it. It was music that reminded me of the excitement I first felt when hearing old Envy tracks. Something that was as angry as anything else I loved, but dealt also with emotions at a more vulnerable level. The music was perhaps a bit pretentious, but these were kids, inclined to imbue their music with something dramatic and dark. Their first lp, while hinting at some more melodic elements, was large and dark and bombastic. It was too much in some ways, but it was admirable. This new record is somehow smaller, it's jangly riffs and upbeat breaks take up way less room sonically, yet also more ambitious. I Was Wrong starts off low and comes in loud and frantic, yet immediately with Criminal, Animal, the second track, we are hit with something Aaron Weiss and the boys could have put out. This marriage of harsh vocals and post-punk rhythms is certainly familiar, but again I think there is something unique about Collision Blonde. It perhaps borrow in just the right ways from its various influences, allowing for moments that feel like world collisions of sound. Perhaps it is the conviction of it, the willingness to to almost cross over into death rock at one moment, and then indy rock chill the next. If you want something to beat ass to, this is not for you. However, there is something surprisingly kinetic here, that just works. It is a strange mix, this insistent screaming with music that does not demand as much you, yet somehow they make the balance work.

Have XERXES discovered a new genre, some sort of Level Plain Records worship with Death Rock hybrid? I am not sure. This may be a mutant that dies after this, a strange abberation that fails to work anywhere after this record. It is not entirely new, and I can see fans of Touche Amore, La Dispute, and MWY really loving this release. It does what all those bands do a little different though, something more frantic and visceral, and that makes it work for me in a way that La Dispute or Pianos Become the Teeth does not.