36 Crazyfists Look to Claim Their Rightful Place in the Alaskan Holy Trinity Between Jewel and Bristol Palin on Time & Trauma
Going to college meant the end of my “JOCKS BAD!” outlook on life. With a clean social slate, I wound up OK with expanding my friendly horizons to include people who weren’t dolled-up mall goths or constantly quoting Bill Hicks. These normals barely liked the same music or movies I did and some even grew up to be Republican (!!!). I met average dudes and ladies with whom I would have had no rapport in high school that I grew to like more than some of the scowling punks or metalheads who were around. But we clicked in ways that didn’t apply to the standards to which I held people in the past. They were plain, sometimes boring, but had something great about them despite that.
36 Crazyfists are the musical equivalent of the paragraph above. Everything shitty about radio rock and metal after 1998 is employed by 36CF. All the hallmarks of Affliction shirt rock are there: the yarbled vocals, mid-paced consistency, the overproduction. But so help me fucking Christ, I can’t not be charmed by Time and Trauma. It hearkens back to when bands who actively liked Alice in Chains lifted from Alice in Chains and made music that maintained some of the charm of Alice in Chains. Or the mid-‘00s when it almost seemed like the public at large might embrace screaming through Killswitch Engage or Shadows Fall. 36 Crazyfists are definitely in the B-squad of either era, but B squad is a whole lot better than F-Minus-squad.
Yes, that’s not much of a hurdle to clear, but 36CF do a little more than clear a hurdle on Time & Trauma. In its best moments, it’s refreshingly catchy and/or heavy. They don’t owe a lot to Swedish death metal like Killswitch nor do they lift from the esoteric influences Deftones tend to plumb. Time & Trauma is pretty straightforward but not formulaic and rote. And 36CF pretty great at it: the chorus of “Silencer” is insidiously catchy, the big dumb riff that opens “Sorrow Signs” is practically DARING YOU to resist it. They actually give off the vibe that they’re attempting something authentic. And while it’s not going to change the way anyone looks at anything, it’s also never cringeworthy or offensive. Again, not a considerable hurdle, but I can’t recall the last time I heard this kind of band give me the impression that the guys behind it give a shit about what they’re playing.
It’s not perfect, of course (which is probably why I’ve been quantifying everything). Vocalist Brock Lindow can’t quite seem to shake his GlassJaw influences, and while Time & Trauma manages to sidestep 21st century mainstream rock’s most depressing tropes, it’s also pretty forgettable in spots. But what 36 Crazyfists do best—write perfectly acceptable radio rock then occasionally drop a heavy-as-fuck riff in there like no one would notice—doesn’t get old. Judging by the music I’ve been listening to since the Star Wars prequels wrapped up, you’d think I’d cast 36 Crazyfists in to the Fuck This bin where Three Days Grace and Hellyeah lie. But it wouldn’t be fair to write off a band like 36 Crazyfists due to my own snobby biases or fatigue with the bro-ification of rock & roll. Time & Trauma isn’t good for what it is; it’s good. It might lack a gritty Albini engineering job or long passages of drone-doom, but I still can’t keep myself from nodding my head in approval.