While “Mission Creep” usually references bureaucratic inertia and military fiascos in Washington parlance, the D.C. post-punks of the same name stress the latter word, emphasizing the darkness latent in the term. Mission Creep’s demo emphasizes the personal variety of quagmire, recording four tracks of the gothic gloom it has purveyed across DIY venues since its first show in January. Listeners may recognize Mission Creep’s members from the panoply of other bands they’ve played in, whether D.C. Hardcore outfits Misled Youth and Iron Cages or Scandinavian D-beat acolytes Jävla. As with so many other D.C. bands, novelty belies larger collective experience.
Hardcore and punk musicians slowing down, plugging in the synthesizers and effects pedals, and embracing despair is a venerable tradition, though one D.C.’s extraordinarily prolific scene isn’t particularly famous for. While Flasher, another relatively new post-punk band, recalls goth standbys like Bauhaus in moments, Mission Creep ventures even deeper into the deathrock catacombs. The band’s eponymous first track starts with Laura Neuhauser’s ‘80s horror soundtrack synths, adding a layer of melodic gloom to a tension-building guitar and driving rhythm section. Brendan Agnew, who delivered most of Jävla’s lyrics in guttural barks and howls, instead delivers lines like “I want, I want it all/ And no part in it” or “You treat me/ Like a fucking rosary/ Run through your hand/ When thoughts turn unclean” on “Bad, So Bad” with appropriate melancholy and drama.
While Mission Creep embrace the darker moods of post-punk, its music is more danceable than dirge. No song clocks in above three minutes, and catchy riffs and choruses will get punks toe-tapping or fist-waving along to Neuhauser’s bleak lyrics on “Weird Invalid.” Mission Creep’s hardcore pedigree is especially apparent in the demo’s standout track “Old Souls,” a brutal reflection on lives spent in pursuit of artistic success. Propulsive pogo punk drumming, a bouncing bassline, and a shrill guitar opener clear the way before Agnew sings “Starve like an artist/ You’re eating all the time/ You’re in the jungle/ You’re gonna die.” The intensity, lyrically and musically, only ratchets up from there, before the tempo momentarily drops long enough for Neuhauser’s lyrics, announcing: “If this is what you do for success/ I’d rather my life be a fucking mess.” While Mission Creep, in name and thematic content, seem all too aware of the costs of ambition, listeners finishing this demo will nevertheless hope they’re driven to produce more.
Mission Creep play with Flamers, Preen, and Ear tomorrow at Hot Tub House. 6:30 p.m. $8-$10. More info here.