After eight full-lengths over 12 years, Lungfish’s music is no less enigmatic than it ever was. Album after album finds the Baltimore quartet perfecting a singular mix of word-salad poetry and jangling post-hardcore. Like AC/DC and the Fall, Lungfish sticks to a time-tested formula, seemingly content to write the same great song over and over again. Pop the needle (or the laser) down at random points in the band’s canon and you’ll hear practically the same sounds each time. If anything, a comparison of Lungfish’s earliest blaring octave-chord anthems—such as the amazing “Instrument” from 1993’s Rainbows From Atoms—with the brittle R.E.M.-like rattle of Necrophones shows these Charm City gents mellowing and simplifying with age—but for the most part, the song remains the same. As is the Lungfish tradition, Necrophones centers on guitarist Asa Osborne’s simple, droning figures and vocalist Daniel Higgs’ elliptical lyrics, which—unlike most rock poetics—read great on the page. Predicting, perhaps, the Lungfish sound circa 2020, “Sex War” is a fine example of the band’s essence, stripping the music down to a hillbilly core of vocals and acoustic guitar. Revisiting the geometric theme of Rainbows From Atoms’ “Mother Made Me” (“I’ll show you a cube, a tetrahedron”), Higgs growls, “Bow before the high orange cube/Sex war relax, sex war resume/Until the repetitions cease/The repetitions must increase/The contents of our earthly tomb.” The gloriously raging “Occult Vibrations”—which belongs on the ultimate Lungfish mix tape—is similarly sex-obsessed: “Wave your bag of blood/It’s flashing in the sun,” sings Higgs. “It’s your new sex and sexuality/A gentle war is on.” Necrophones, it seems, is neither a great leap forward nor a step backward, but simply an older, wiser rewrite of a familiar story.

—Brent Burton