Two Inch Astronaut - Bad Brother (2013), 8/10

Two Inch Astronaut was a small post-hardcore trio band formed in the outskirts of D.C. in 2009, with a style and ambition akin to Fugazi or Slint. Their bandleader Sam Rosenburg aka Mister Goblin is a driving force behind much of the music, both in composition and in his unique, exceptionally powerful vocals, vital to both their sound and their remarkably focused direction. The songwriting and arrangement was uncharacteristically intelligent and biting for both the era and the scene, but elevated by angular, sparse yet lush instrumentation and musicianship. Bad Brother was their first official full length LP after the breakout EP Red Pancake and the Dark Energy, signaling a significant growth in the band’s sound. The band as individuals and as a group are very technically proficient, even at this early stage in their discography, and they are exceptionally tight in this 27 minute roller coaster ride. They execute expertly written songs with loads of distortion, great use of raw noise and absolutely masterful percussion from Gatwood. The raw emotional tension is introduced straight away and hardly ever relents, resulting in brief moments of respite in the calmer sections of the record. Sam is very often the star of the show, bringing extremely memorable, versatile guitar work along with some of the most emotion filled screaming we have heard to date. Matt Gatwood and Daniel Pouridas also provide some very compelling performances and keep things fresh throughout the entire tracklist. The swells in "Zones" and "Sternum" are unbelievably satisfying, and "He Was Our Boy" has some of the most remarkable guitar work on the whole record; it ties things up in a very complete sense. There is a charming level of raw imperfection in both the production and inherent sound that is unfortunately lost in the anniversary reissue so I can only recommend the original pressing. The introspective yet socially critical lyricism blends fluidly with the band’s brand of punk angst and results in a identifiable set of tracks with moving stories. They clearly come from a personal, intimate place from Sam’s personal life and he brings that passion to the vocal performances, laying his soul on the line for us to hear. Their previous aforementioned EP Red Pancake and the Dark Energy lacked maturity in sound and the proceeding Foulbrood, while also excellent, displaces the raw intimacy of Bad Brother with a flair of indie rock that feels marginally more detached. Whether it is the Isaac Brock inspired guitar work on “Begin Probe”, the foreboding breakdown from “Sternum” or the emotional rollercoaster, both from a storytelling and sonic perspective, that is “He Was Our Boy”, there is more than enough to dig your teeth into even after countless spins. Easily one of the best post-hardcore records of the 2010s and unfortunately woefully unsung and overshadowed by some releases of significantly lesser quality. Bad Brother sings of an isolation characteristic of its time that has proceeded into our own, but transcends its idiosyncratic messaging through its foundation in standout, exceptionally artful musicianship.