Edges of Rock

I’ve been thinking about Heat Waves by The Flag since its 2015 press cycle, and I’ve never quite found occasion to translate those thoughts into press itself. The album is challenging in the sense that it is ambitious, well-produced, versatile, and full of big ideas. Its hardest edges are confrontational. Thankfully, Geographic North are on some tireless bent, and the new Lyonnais album, Anatomy of the Image, serves as a perfect counterpunch to those vicious edges of The Flag. In terms of aesthetic, GeoNorth uses both releases to encourage and expand the visual potential of the album, blending bright colors and sharp design in patterns fit to push the borders of new wave.

New wave is an easily maligned term; in some senses, the gentrification of punk and its merciless subgenres relegate new wave into some kind of watered down territory. Like new wave is somehow less fit to be punk, an incomplete form that didn’t quite reach its destination. However, I think the best new wave exemplifies a sense of humor, production choices, and diversity that some punks were too timid to try. This isn’t an effort to similarly malign punk, but rather an effort to collect albums with inexplicable turns, dance pieces and hard rock guitar, synthetic beats and gnarly guitars, and deep / androgynous / spoken / theatrical (a good thing) vocal performances into one highly misunderstood genre category. I think about Cheveau by the French band Cheveu as a perfect example of the potential of new wave: a “pan” would dismiss its takes as art-damaged wanking, but its virtues far outweigh its vices in terms of creativity, unbounded oddities, and (even still!) enough straightforward rock to lend it a pulse and a recognizable face.

In this turn, I link The Flag and Lyonnais. Granted, both albums have completely different turns away from their rock commonalities. Lyonnais uses pressure cooked drone to draw in the listener, while The Flag translate their rock visions into dance counterparts. Both are as fit for the dancefloor as just about any GeoNorth You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever 7″. So, these albums are ambitious, loud, and distorted extensions of the logic that defines that series. In one sense, one could call both The Flag and Lyonnais the hardest edge of the label, on the pole opposite its ambient extreme. Through this set of unpredictable performances, oddities, highly textured and often-distorted production, and a sense for dramatic, vocal-centric songs, Anatomy of the Image expands one edge of rock through the tools of conceptual repetition and the rounded edges/expanse of drone. Heat Waves completes the same logical outgrowth of rock by opting to snake through the club by using the most crowded and dangerous path.

Both The Flag and Lyonnais are available from Geographic North.