There exists that special caste of record known as growers. These are discs, or artist-curated playlists of MP3s anyway, that require successive listens to get into. Traditionally, growers represent a category of difficult music. Though not immediately accessible, little nuances avail themselves to the listener through successive listens over some extended period of time. An appreciation for the music must develop over time, in a casually diligent process similar to nurturing houseplants. Eventually, that which was initially off-putting stands for sublime genius. ‘Hands,’ the debut full-length from local quartet Macbeth, is a grower.
Clarification is necessary, here. There exists an undoubtedly significant population of listeners who will latch right away onto Macbeth’s crystal distillation of New-Jack-Old-School-New-Wave-Alterna- Rock-in-the-21st Century. ‘All In’ implores the instrumental opener’s garage-y rave-up. Yessir, respond these aforementioned listeners, before greedily eating up several tracks of skiffing disco beats and hummable hooks. The synthesizers coo, as if wistfully longing to return to the video-game ice-palace from whence they came. ‘Shadow Killer,’ ‘Ant Glasses,’ ‘Louis 19,’ and ‘Rabbit Run’ ably satisfy that dual hunger for catchy melody and disaffected cool. The title of nifty Moroder-via-The Yeah Yeah Yeahs number ‘Spin’ might as well refer to the glossy magazine pages of Spin, which abound with similarly polished specimens of radio-ready renegade rock. Indeed, if you are into this sort of thing, ‘Red Light City’ is the perfect high-octane closer, finishing the album with an anthemic POP. With their competent execution of this formula, Macbeth’s increasing renown in Taipei makes enough sense. Of course, to refer to rock ‘n’ roll’s competence can represent damning praise. Nonetheless, ‘Hands,’ the debut full-length from local quartet Macbeth, is a grower.
Whereas so much lazy rock journalism of the preceding decade might cite Joy Division in reference to the music Macbeth makes, ‘I Punish Myself Everynight’ is the only track that recalls the seminal Manchester quartet in any meaningful way. Featuring a moody blues-scale bass-line, over which an industrial-strength baritone preaches English-Language self-hatred to the post-industrial choir, however, this eighth track is also the only obvious miss on a record otherwise stocked with credible hits.
‘Mountain,’ the album’s fifth track, features a similarly grim vocal delivery. After a few listens, however, the syncopating start-stop of the opening’s dropped bass notes and indirect drum-hits impart a loping sense of humanity. Washes of stereoscopic synth pan for golden effect, drawing attention to how well this album was recorded, all of which primes the listener for mid-album instrumental ‘Love.’ On this standout track, the bass trades snaky sinew for fuzzed-out rock MUSCLE, and the synth’s blissful evocation of AOR manages to feel as futuristic fresh as if we were actually hearing it for the first time thirty years ago. Even if Macbeth’s sound isn’t your bag, tracks like ‘Love’ are the real thing. The engaging diversions in the album’s sixth and longest track impart an increasing respect for Macbeth’s songwriting capabilities, as well as an increasing appreciation for other dynamic moments across the record. Listen to ‘Hands’ enough times, and your esteem for the group that produced it will grow.