There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Drive Like Jehu’s 1994 swan song, Yank Crime, was the epitome of mid-’90s math-rock: Full of angular guitar work, the album was pushed by a hard-hitting rhythm section that could turn on a dime to make the genre’s signature off-kilter time changes. Not surprisingly—despite being deemed an artistic success by the independent media—the band’s first (and last) Interscope release was a commercial failure and led to the San Diego quartet’s dissolution, not too long after its release. Ten years later, it seems Jehu mainstays John “Speedo” Reis and Rick “Too Many Surnames” Froberg still aren’t over their involvement with a major. On Audit in Progress, the third full-length from the pair’s most current collaboration, Hot Snakes, Froberg angrily proclaims, “I’d tear up my check for creative control,” as well as give up sex and drink piss. That’s a hell of a commitment to make, though it’s not likely to be tested anytime soon: With Audit, he’s happily ensconced on Reis’ independent label, Swami. The album builds on the fast-paced rock of the Snakes’ first record, Automatic Midnight, and eschews the swampy sound of the band’s sophomore release, Suicide Invoice. For Audit, original drummer Jason Kourkounis has been replaced with Reis’ Rocket From the Crypt buddy and ex–Sea of Tombs percussionist Mario Rubalcaba, who—from the opening drum roll of the blistering first track, “Braintrust,” on into the galloping beat of “Hi-Lites,” and continuing for the duration of the record—sets the album’s frenzied pace. Still, as good a rhythm section as Rubalcaba and bassist Gar Wood are, the dueling guitars of Reis and Froberg (the former’s, in particular) undeniably dominate the record—hammering, scratching, and feedbacking their way through its 12 tracks of punk revival. Sure, this familiar dynamic—not to mention Froberg’s easily recognizable nasal shout—will inevitably draw comparisons to the pair’s earlier, more intricate work. But with their latest, the members of Hot Snakes have again found a way to make their streamlined approach—which casts aside such complexities as weird time signatures in favor of accessibility—no less rewarding. Indeed, it may well be their best collaboration to date.