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Flat Worms, "Antarctica" Angeles' Flatworms kicked off their career creating psychedelic-tinged and feedback-driven guitar riffs embedded in a foundation of high-octane garage punk, with lyrical content to match. The latest direction finds the trio of vocalist and guitarist Will Ivy, drummer Justin Sullivan and bassist Tim Hellman (Ty Segall, Oh Sees) painting on a less fuzzy canvas, with a more refined sound and finer songwriting precision, with both Steve Albini and Ty Segall in the engineering booth. Segall's '60s psychedelic influence can be felt here, as well as Albini's commitment to high fidelity, but some of the musical experimentation heard on their prior work has been traded in for a more well-oiled machine, albeit a well-oiled machine with punk sizzle.

GOD? Records / Drag City

The title of the album speaks to today's society as a barren wilderness, as cold and barren as Antarctica, and its inhabitants devoid of empathy. Album opener "The Aughts" was inspired by Ivy's trip to the ruins of the Tomb of the Kings in Cyprus, lamenting the end of a once grand civilization, failures laid bare as if in a wasteland, and this and other tracks carry a similar theme: if we do not learn from our mistakes and fly right, we stand to be what Antarctica became, in culture, community, climate and beyond. Tracks like "Market Forces" and "Mine" take shots at just some of the forces pushing society in that direction. It's a bleak concept with angry energy crackling throughout the entire album, but not all is without hope if we cooperate to turn the ship around, as tracks like "Via" attest. "If I follow the fallen's path / I walk to my own demise / Can't burn the history / But I can try to rebuild."

Yet, the musical formula that Flat Worms used so successfully in the past is diminished here. Gone are the buzzy melodies, modulated noise, focused vocal blasts, and messy, chaotic riffs, in favor of cleaner fidelity and more formulaic melody. The concept of the album is worth exploring, but the delivery of the message falls short. This, their second full-length delivery, was recorded in a mere six days in Steve Albini's Electrical Audio studio. With such a quick turnaround it might be expected that the same fuzzed out chaos is present here, but its presence is felt much less. While the album offers plenty of energy, the production washes away some of the rawness, unique flourishes, and personality that made the self-titled album so memorable.

Sound samples can be found here.