Apparently Plague Vendor has been flailing through L.A. house shows and warehouse parties since 2009, and somebody finally corralled them into a studio long enough to make this classically one or two take per tune post-punk debut zinger. The spastic rip-aparts they do to spy flick riffs impress right from the first tune, Black Sap Scriptures. More bleeding and noise would make them more desperate sounding, but then again, if you follow frazzled jitter-punk, the lo-fi, over-screeched thing has been a thing for awhile, so it’s interesting to hear a band sound determined rather than just detuned.
Just when singer Brandon Blaine’s scat lyrical jive edges towards stilted, he suddenly yalps louder and goes more leering boogie rocker, like the gross gargle at the end of Breakdance On Broken Glass; or squealing something like, “Making love in the courtyard” (Cursed Love, Hexed Lust); or screeching about bottles of gin and cruising around in cars, but then portentously calling that song Financial Fatalist. Blaine has a way of making sloppy, street-walkin’ kicks sound like they are weighted with the world’s most pressing problems, or Echo Park’s at least. And his bandmates match his icky intensity. The frizzy bass and Contortions-y chop-chords throughout—most notably in Seek The Ruby Scratch—feel like they’re shoving Blaine out of a party he just caused some trouble in.
Again, this band is from SoCal, so we’re not talking too crazy here (though that opening scream in My Tongue Is So Treacherous is pretty insane). The band’s spazz is sunburnt, and it hurts to have a sunburn. But it’s a lot more fun getting one than, say, busting your ankle on ice while trudging through a five-month snowy winter. Hence, we’ve a more approachable frenzy here: the wirey guitar leads steer the songs rather than splay them off course; and there are readily chant-along choruses. Blaine’s word-spewing falls in line with the Epitaph tradition, but otherwise, given that label’s recent history, this is a breath of fresh art-sleaze.
Sadly, Plague Vendor are doing the Warped Tour, so instead of coming to your town and giving you the basement show treatment their L.A. fans have been enjoying, you might have to make do with applying sunscreen during their 4:27 in the afternoon set while waiting in line for a Rockstar. But hey, in Garden Lanterns, Blaine mentions finding “something better than a one-night stand,” so those house parties might be starting to lose their appeal. A middle ground is still to be reached, but at the least, Plague Vendor is proof that even in these times of combos called Dancing, Girls, and the Teen Age, one can come up with an intriguing band name, matched to music that also begs for further investigation.