THESE ARMS ARE AWESOME
These Arms are Snakes are a band that I only became conscious of in one of those classic concert-going situations: “Hey, who’s opening for [headlining band]? Who the fuck is that?” These situations are always filled with potential goodness, because ultimately an opening band that you’ve never heard of simply cannot ruin the concert for you short of lighting the venue on fire or boob-slapping your girlfriend; you’re there to see the headliner, and no matter how crappy the support is, there’s usually a bar that’s more deserving of your 45 minutes of attention. On the other hand, if the band is respectable, it’s a bonus to what was hopefully going to be a sweet show anyway.
Luckily for me, TAAS was in the latter category and put on a spectacular live show.
They didn’t sound a thing like the headliner, every member of the band was 200% into their own sound, and front man Steve Snere was a mean machine: climbing amplifiers to the balcony, filling every part of the stage with his presence, and hocking vertical loogies that landed straight back on his face. I was almost a little disappointed that they were the opener only because when the headliner did come on-stage there was such a drop in the energy of the room that you just simply had to be a fan to enjoy it as much. TAAS on the other hand were ensnaring new fans with every song.
You see the great thing about being a band without a well-defined genre niche to call home is that it opens you up to not only being able to play with bands that sound nothing like you (in the case of TAAS this includes Pelican, Isis and Mastodon to name a few) but also potentially appealing to their fans.
The downside of being indefinable is that it becomes a great labor to describe the sound of a band like TAAS. On Tail Swallower and Dove, for instance, I’ve only been able to narrow down a few of its basic elements: guitars that peddle in atmosphere as often as they plug power-chords, overdriven bass and analog synthesizers designed to pound your ears in, and an anxious, ADD drummer who adds a sense of urgency to the whole affair. Every song is laced with a simple yet addictive groove. Not the metal kind of groove you bang your head to or the funk groove you can dance to. I think a more appropriate movement for this would be to spastically thrash around like a nut case. It’s post-punk fucking noise rock in unusual positions but with an impeccable sense of rhythm. It’s sexy and it’s limber.
Though my description is completely inadequate, I assure you that this whole cocktail is an enjoyable success. Songs like “Prince Squid” and “Lead Beater” are as heavy as their names sound, while “Long and Lonely Step” and the long-piece closer “Briggs” demonstrates a more moody, but laidback nuance in their song writing. While most of the tracks might be indistinguishable at first, Tail Swallower and Dove becomes much more rewarding upon successive listens. The tracks themselves are not musically complex but at the same time they’re not easily comprehensible.
I enjoyed this album quite a bit, but unfortunately I’m haunted by the knowledge that I know all of it would be much more exciting in a concert hall than in my bedroom. If you’re an open-minded music fan looking for something heavy but not metal, and a band that doesn’t sound like other bands, you might just find your noisy groove with These Arms Are Snakes.
(3 ½ out of 5 horns)