The third album from perhaps the only noise-rock band to take their name from an article on the Onion could just as easily have been called ‘Chris Sutter’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Breakup and Ensuing Emotional Collapse’, but that doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. Besides, Sutter, vocalist for Chicago trio Meat Wave, had a name in the back of his mind by the time he and his bandmates were ready to put their next record together, inspired by the persistent sense of anxiety and helplessness he was gradually overcome by in the two years following the aforementioned split: The Incessant.
In his own words, the phrase describes “these situations that I would find myself in where I was just full of feeling and sometimes confusion & regret“. In addition to the breakup, he lost his cat (blame the breakup); his appendix; the chance to attend his dad’s wedding as best man (blame the appendix); and post-operation, his ability to walk (albeit temporarily). Not only did Sutter go through all that, articulating the accompanying sense of dread when such a thing has heretofore been unspeakable takes a considerable amount of guts. He didn’t lose those.
While the band’s first two records (their 2012 self-titled debut and 2015’s lauded follow-up Delusion Moon) were the work of people (Sutter, drummer Ryan Wizniak and bassist Joe Gac) who were learning to express themselves in new ways, their third album is a clear step up from what’s gone before: a torrent of anger, anxiety, self-loathing and uncomfortable personal examination that lives up to its title. Once ‘To Be Swayed’ kicks in, there really is no respite, and what follows is 36 minutes of white-hot rage, delivered with an increased amount of melodic heft.
It may be a full-on experience, but the sheer catharsis it offers makes every minute worthwhile. ‘Tomosaki’ (named for Sutter’s absent feline friend), ‘Leopard Print Jet Ski’ and ‘Bad Man’ race by in a blur of frenzied riffs and demented rhythms, the songs threaded together with brief (and sometimes unnoticeable) segues. Wizniak, in particular, puts in serious work, dominating ‘At The Lake’ and underpinning the title track’s lurching, metallic drone with a straightforward drum part that’s incredibly effective.
The Incessant is an invigorating, passionate and confident-sounding album from a band who deserve a lot more attention than they’ve been afforded in the past. There’s a palpable sense of momentum sweeping it along to its explosive finale ‘Killing the Incessant’, which is every bit as brutal and therapeutic as its title suggests. Some songs, like ‘Run You Out’ or ‘No Light’ serve the album’s hopeless nadir in a narrative context, and on a musical level is anything but a low point—will provide jumping-off points for curious listeners, but the record is meant to be incessant in name and nature, experienced in one sitting.
If its heavy subject matter and unrelenting pace make a full listen seem like a commitment, well, that’s the whole point of it; because at its heart, Meat Wave’s latest is a deeply personal document of one man confronting, overcoming and dispatching his demons; in these turbulent times, such an album will surely be a beacon of hope to Meat Wave fans old and new.
The Incessant is released on February 17th through Big Scary Monsters.