As an album in general, it’s kind of hard to find a beating heart under the barked vocals and charging riffs. That doesn’t mean it’s bad; it just means that while this batch of songs rocks my face off, it’s not going to end up on my year-end lists.
“But lots of albums won’t end up on your year-end list,” you think. “Why bring it up?”
Well, the members of The Two Koreas are really good at playing music, and their songs are the muscly, revivalist sort of punk/post-punk tunes that many critics get all hot and bothered over. (It was not surprising to find that there are two music critics in this band, according to press materials.) If “Science Island” ends up on year-end lists — and it just may — I’ll have to explain why I missed the boat then if I don’t do it now. And, as I said in the beginning, I just don’t feel the heartbeat in it all. It feels a bit like a cough experiment in punk songs.
The nine-minute “Majored in Swimming” pulls back the straightforward gruffness in the guitar and lets the listener in on what’s going on in The Two Koreas’ mind. The meandering, melodic song is absolutely great, and if the rest of the album had skewed more in this direction I would be hopping up and down a bit more. The nearly-eight-minute “Karl Johans Gate” also dabbles in this meandering mode, but these are (sadly) the last two tracks and deserve to be given more stature.
But if you like your punk aggression with some brains as well as brawn, there’s few better bands than The Two Koreas to help you out with that. —Stephen Carradini