Marbled Eye, “Read the Air”
By Jennifer Kelly · March 18, 2024 Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP, T-Shirt/Shirt

It’s been five years, a change in bass players, and a global pandemic since Oakland post-punk band Marbled Eye made a record, a fact that guitarist and singer Michael Lucero notes in the lyrics. “It seems that we’re starting over/ When the ending is beginning,” he chants, as the racket builds around him—Bay Area punk mainstay Chris Natividad (who also sings) slashing furiously at the guitar, Alex Shen bashing the kit, and newly acquired bassist Ronnie Portugal providing a low-end ooze of feedback and subliminal vibration.

Marbled Eye makes a fundamental kind of post-punk, largely rhythmic and fuzzed over with distortion. They’re often compared to historic and contemporary post-punkers like the Fall, Wire, and Protomartyr, but there’s one key difference. Those are all blackly humorous bands. Marbled Eye is mostly not. There’s not much sense of play in these bruising, battering tracks. They’re dour like FACS but messier; dank as Spray Paint but without the archness.

And yet, there’s an arc of development here, as Marbled Eye lifts off subtly from its droning, thumping foundation into flares of noise or flights of melody. “Starting Over” has the ghost of an anthemic tune buried in it. “See It Too” swaggers in on brutish melody, the vocal line arching upwards into something like a hook. On these tracks Marbled Eye sounds most like its roughhousing Australian cousins, Eddy Current Suppression Ring and Total Control.

Like a lot of bands, Marbled Eye had a tough go of the Covid-19 lockdown, unable to play or record or even see much future for themselves. That comes through in “In the Static” with its restless, questioning guitar lick, its jackbooted rhythmic clamor, its paranoiac verses about isolation and anxiety. Lyrics about masks and boredom and six-sided boxes culminate in Lucero’s end of days shouts: “And when the hand comes down/ And when the hand comes down/ And when the hand comes down.”

Read the Air both hurtles and stomps, a volatile mix of muscle and misery. It’s a good hard ride, full of power and aggression, and tinged, just at the margins, with the pleasures of melody.

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