Sign up for our free newsletter

Free D.C. news, delivered to your inbox daily.

The members of Parts & Labor want to be noise-rock kings, but they also wish they were pop-punk maestros. On their third album, the Brooklyn trio boom forth with heavy blasts of feedback, keyboard noise, and jackhammer beats, then screech to a halt with pregnant pauses underneath soaring vocal melodies that break up the cacaphony. Genre-mixing is great and all, but in this case, it probably would have been better to choose just one or the other—though God knows both could use an update—because this hybrid isn’t working. On tracks such as “A Great Divide” and “A Pleasant Stay,” where the verses are limited to triumphant vocal lines, those skylarking harmonies don’t so much break up the bedlam as make the listener wish for more of the noisy stuff. But the high-pitched squealing and blistering riffage that multi-instrumentalists Dan Friel and BJ Warshaw employ throughout Stay Afraid tends to dissolve into a one-dimensional, feedbacky blur, the kind of thing a better band such as My Bloody Valentine could put to good use as a complement to its songwriting. The album’s closer, “Changing of the Guard,” for example, is a simple, upbeat number firmly grounded in a whiny, unchanging vocal that manages to be even less interesting than the unimaginative atonal parts it should be propping up. Underneath that, a descending melody enters and exits as a stop-and-start beat leads into a disturbingly jiggy—like, sea-chantey jiggy—keyboard part. That this all unfolds underneath a fuzzy haze of effects and cymbal wash is impressive, but it does nothing to make you forget that though Parts & Labor have a way with chaos, they just can’t seem to make their noise carry a tune.—Mike Kanin