CDVS: C.Aarmé Vs. Wire
As the press hype sheet tells it, C.Aarmé sprung into the world fully formed like some leather-jacketed Athena, free from the tangled branches of the punk family tree. Bad Brains? Never heard of 'em, says C.Aarmé. Black Flag? Shrug. Can't really blame the band; isn't genuflecting at the altar of so-called "seminal punk bands" just the kind of veiled authority worship that punk's supposed to be against anyway? Instead, these Gothenburg Swedes claim a more basic influence: the desire to play something fast 'n' hard that makes your ears rings and balls tingle. C.Aarmé has achieved that with a self-titled debut that rumbles along with that same spare attack and unerring sense of hook and rhythm that calls to mind yesteryear greats such as Minutemen, Joy Division and Wire.
Wire? Yeah, once upon a time, before it made surrealist pop out of synths and samples, Wire put out a tough gnarl of straightahead rock called Pink Flag. How will C.Aarmé react to meeting this long-lost uncle? It's family reunion night at CDVS.
Specializing in catchy, two-minute affairs that chug forth with primitive elan, C.Aarmé comes out strong with, well, pick a tune: opener "Gasmask" splashes around, centered on a juicy bassline and a chanted chorus--"No gasmask! Don't need one!"--that's tailor-made for sloshing beer to. "O'Neill Oh No" coils up into a chorus of bass-and-drum rattle that'll shake your teeth loose. "Aimless" is a charger that sees singer Jessie Garon putting his useful if generic shout to more melodic use. In all, there's a driving single-mindedness to these songs--and often a careening, cartoon bounce--that's just damn likable. C.Aarmé is the class clown you suspect hides true genius beneath dick jokes and fart noises. What the band may lack in nuance it makes up for in pure, propulsive fun.
Wire, however, boasts smartypants and cojones to fill them. On its celebrated 1977 album, Wire brought to punk a sophisticated minimalism that didn't sacrifice the satisfying face-slap that only a good fistful of chords could deliver--and a cerebral lyrical style that bears the unmistakable stamp of the band's alma mater, Watford Art College. Just skimming off the top, there's the skinny-tie shuffle of "Three Girl Rhumba," the catchy and complex "Ex-Lion Tamer"--marrying the wide reach of arena rock to punk immediacy--and that Wire classic, ŕ 2 X U," a spare scuffle that presages the band's future electronic work. But for all of Wire's art school breeding, Pink Flag lacks aesthetic unity; it's not so much a great album as a really great collection of songs. Thus is it any wonder that C.Aarmé and Wire are hugging teary-eyed over the potato salad? This one's a tie.--Andrew Kiraly