STANDOUT TRACK: No. 3, “Knives,” a raw, two-minute exercise in Sprechstimme, guitar flange, and goth theatrics. Cribbing from Hamlet, Singer Shawn Helton sets the tone as an aggro riff churns over Dave Svrjcek’s explosive drumming: “Burning hands and fatal vision.…Is this a dagger before me?” If you think the chorus is melancholy—“We’re all to blame, the knives of lust/That we all exchange”—just wait for the bridge, an eerie, multitracked scream that sounds like the Misfits trouncing Pornography-era Cure in a street fight refereed by Bauhaus.
MUSICAL MOTIVATION: After bassist Paul Bernardi brought in the first line of the song, Svrjcek “just started pounding this ridiculous fucking postpunk insanity,” says Helton. “He was hitting as hard as he could.” The music’s primal vibe matched Helton’s mood—the singer confesses he was going through some romantic trials and tribulations when “Knives” coalesced. “It’s probably about being consumed with flowing intensity that you don’t know what to do with,” Helton says. “It’s a very dark love song.”
CUTTING CREW: The Opposite Sex’s live theatrics have an unlikely source for inspiration: a hair salon. “I’m a hairdresser,” says
Helton, 30, who works at Georgetown’s Easel Hair Studio. “My brother is a hairdresser, my aunt is a hairdresser.…I’m onstage every day talking to somebody.” Still, the Shaw-based quintet has yet to explicitly reference its frontman’s vocation. “I always wanted to incorporate hairdressing into what we do, but I can’t be overt about it,” says Helton. “It might be too Ringling Brothers.”
The Opposite Sex plays DC9 on Monday, Sept. 17.