There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
It’s a truism that for young aggro-rockers, growing up translates to going soft. But watching a band trying to keep it real by sticking with a played-out sound can be even more dispiriting than seeing it mellow out. In 2001, when D.C. trio Frodus released its last studio effort, And We Washed Our Weapons in the Sea, it had outgrown the “spazzcore” tag it had coined for itself and reinforced with countless live freakouts. By then, Frodus wasn’t spazzing; it was playing grand-scale emo rock livened up with some decidedly nonmellow metallic riffs. With their new project, the Black Sea, former Frodi Shelby Cinca and Jason Hamacher have rewritten their original mission statement even more. On the band’s self-titled three-song debut, the dense, dark melodies of Cinca’s guitar are artfully layered with his wavering vocals. “Ideas disappear/For those who never speak,” he sings on “Ghost Lanterns.” “A history forgotten/If our hearts never seek.” If that sounds a bit poetic for punk rock, don’t worry: The reggae-rock outro is worthy of Bad Brains, and the track’s overall grooviness is of a distinctly Fugazian variety. In fact, the rhythms here happen to be supported by actual Fugazi bassist Joe Lally, whose playing throughout is both sinister and smooth. Elsewhere, The Black Sea shows even more evidence that “evolution” need not be a dirty word: “Landscapes” has a British-postpunk feel, calling to mind Echo and the Bunnymen, and the disc-closing “Wingless Fire” features spacey vocals wrapped up in folky acoustic guitars and distant synth thunder. Since the disc was recorded, Lally has reportedly signed on as a full-time member, and the group has begun writing new material. That should come as no surprise: If The Black Sea is any indication, Cinca & Co. still have a lot of growing up to do. And for once, that’s not a bad thing at all. —John Dugan