The needle of the record player hits the 7" slab of transparent red vinyl with a small pop, and you’ve already surpassed the experience of listening to an mp3. Now it slips into the first groove and “Vital Joys” by longtime local rock troopers Worn in Red comes shooting from the speakers.
|Listen to "Vital Joys" by Worn in Red:
Rooted in the punk movement, split 7"s emerged as a way for small bands to both cut costs and couple their music with a like-minded band to spread their tunes to a broader audience. When you flip to the other side, you get another traditional Do-It-Yourself treat from Atlanta’s Benard, a band that shares an aesthetic similar to Worn in Red.
Beak happening: Worn in Red swoops in with a bit of old-fashioned vinyl rock. And it sounds better.
But back to the needle’s drop. As the record spins, the song’s ascending chords pile into your head and the throaty, screaming vocals feel like they are coming from just a few inches away from your face. Once they’ve got your attention Minor Threat-style, the band backs off a little, giving themselves room for a more gradual build to the next apex.
And the quartet’s music is all about apexes: the anticipatory rising chords, crescendos that climb from muffled strikes of the strings to soaring, distorted releases and an overarching progression that pulls you through the music’s inner workings. On “Vital Joys,” Worn in Red has skillfully translated this dynamism, something that has long been a highlight of their live shows, into a gripping, satisfying five-and-half-minute experience.
What better way to showcase that experience than on an eye- catching piece of wax? A 7" record may seem like an archaic medium amid the ubiquitous point-click-and-play of mp3 blogs and download services like iTunes, but Worn in Red is not a band in danger of being stranded in the digital world. Instead, you’ll likely find them hawking this release at a makeshift merch table following a basement blowout.
The sleeve for the record, designed by Red guitarist and singer Brendan Murphy, features an illustration of eagles descending on a muddy pond of fish. It’s a fitting image for Worn in Red’s often ominous sound, and a carefully composed design that shows that this release isn’t just something thrown together to feed the ever-expanding mass of digital music out there. It’s not just ones and zeros that will disappear when your hard drive crashes, but a physical artifact that your kids might find on the shelf one day and ask, “What’s this?”
The final two minutes of “Vital Joys” hold the song’s best movement, a plodding and expanding surge reminiscent of Mogwai’s epic post-rock. The only downside is that, as the final notes of the song die out, you’re left wanting a more cathartic finale. But this is just one song and one side of a 7" after all, and given its potency, Worn in Red will surely be back soon to satisfy that craving.
Get your hands on Worn in Red and Benard’s split 7" at one of their shows or order it from www.nobrakesatl.com/no-breaks -records/our-releases.