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Q And Not U
by: Sun-J

When the fierce independent label led by punk-rock legend Ian Mackaye, Dischord Records, signed Q And Not U, they had thought they found another Fugazi. At the time (2000), Q And Not U released their debut album No Kill No Beep Beep, an LP full of disjointed guitars and propulsive beats. A short time after the freshman drop there was a recursive fall out. Talented bassist Matt Barlik split, and left Q And Not U without an answer. Rather than replace a member and gamble with chemistry, the remaining trio of guiatrists Chris Richards, and Harris Klahr, and drummer John Davis, filled the bass guitar gaps with synthesizers and other eclectic instrumentation. In addition, it was not uncommon for Richards to jump on the four-stringed "chick magnet," or for the band to pigeon hole the instrument all together in favor of melodic, guitar driven chords. 2002 marked the year of their sophomore effort, Different Damage, an album which progressively had a much more mature melodic theme, yet tried to retain the post-punk atmosphere which was no surprise since, like No Kill No Beep Beep, it was also produced by Mr. Mackaye. During 2003, after two MacKaye produced singles ("X-Polynation" and "Book of Flags"), drummer John Davis injured his 'kick' foot in a hockey accident (blame Canada), and the Washington D.C. trio was forced to cancel the remainder of their tour. The band was now left without the driving force of their music. Rather than search for a temporary replacement, Davis decided to tough it out. What the happened was the discovery of a new sound, based on the limitations of Davis' foot. The band headed to Brooklyn, New York and hooked up with Rafael Cohen and Pete Cafarella for their new record, rather than have it produced by MacKaye as the previous albums were done. What ensued was a fusion of synth driven, basslines and 70's British folk music to create 2004's Power.

The album opens with "Wonderful People," a mesh of funk guitar and synthesizing grooves in addition to the image compelling lyrics; ?Wonderful people, your song is on the breeze where, collecting in every street and, every crazy heart is beating.? In "7 Daughters" the synths dominate despite an aggressive guitar among the overlapping of Davis' complex drum patterns. "Throw Back Your Head" features an oddly introduced flute among the harmonizing vocals of Richards and Klahr. This song is a definite reminder of Pentangle, the once prominent British folk band. "Wet Work" features a punk guitar lead, masking Modest Mouse, bouncing guitars and synth lines. "Distinct Night Prayer" has a church hymn vibe with its bells and chimes while "Collect The Diamonds" incorporates an imaginative piano loop. Davis is at his best on "Beautiful Beats" where his constant drumming will make you think a drum machine is being implemented. "Dine" is a politically aware song, describing our relationship with the government and "X-Polynation" is a funkdafied upgrade of the 2003 single. The album tapers at "Book of Flags," the second to last track, and possibly the climax of the album where the natural, 70's British rock theme blatantly surfaces.

Q And Not U's progressive evolution into the watered down pop influenced sound today may disappoint post-punk fans. Those expecting to hear a Fugazi sound will instantaneously be disappointed, though the trio's eclectic use of instrumentation sparks listening interest throughout. Though the off-kilter lyrics are present, as in the past, Richards uses a didactic style of to his prose, and in addition, it seems as if the vocals are sung at a higher tone than previously (which yields the British folk comparisons). In conclusion if you are looking for lots of percussion, synth and upbeat melodies, this may be a good pick up.


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