The Conformists | Three Hundred (54 40 or Fight)

cd_conformistsBelleville, Ill.'s the Conformists are the closest thing the boundless St. Louis area has to Shellac.






There are some critics who believe the opening lyrics to "My Black Ass" on Shellac's debut LP are a very pointed salvo. When Steve Albini barks, "You're gonna eat what I fix and I hope you choke on it," it is not mere lyrics, but a giant "fuck off" to their critics over the years.

Belleville, Ill.'s the Conformists are the closest thing the boundless St. Louis area has to Shellac. While musically different, the Conformists have that Shellac aesthetic about them. The Conformists do little things to aggravate or offend. Examples: Members of the band have matching tattoos of two cats being hung. This tattoo also adorns their t-shirts. Several years back, the band printed off flyers for a show with Black Dice that were completely black, save for a very small white square in the bottom left corner that contained the show information.

To know the Conformists is to witness them in action. You need to sit back and watch their fans stomp and flail about possessed in unison with their music. I realize that some find it a backhanded compliment to state that a band does not fully translate on disc alone. However, for the Conformists, you really need to see them live. Either you get the Conformists or you don't. Those who get the Belleville quartet are a devoted bunch, to say the least.

While "no-wave" is an easy genre to stuff them in, the Conformists are difficult to describe. Complicated at times, the rules of conventional song structure are all but non-existent. They are fast, disjointed, and loud at one point, while calmly menacing the next. Songs have brief moments of silence broken by bursts of bombast. They are not a band that stereo should be turned up if the volume drops to a whisper as they do not stand still for long.

On Three Hundred, these traits are prominently on display. In fact, "Tax Deduction" can sum up this album rather well. A beginning with whispered vocals and a wobbly plod transitions into a roar that switches over to a catchy period of mathematics finishing with extended silence. Also, see the excellent "Black People" and "Are These Flowers?" as other examples. While this juggling is prevalent, Three Hundred also has comparatively linear cuts in "Meredith Knezvitch" and "A.S.M.M.C," a slow burning number, where the expected transition into a crescendo simply does not happen. However, Three Hundred's last, longest, and best track is "You're Welcome." Understated and restrained, it is the Conformists at their best. It shows that while raised volume and tempo is easy to embrace, it can be the quiet moments after the storm that prove more rewarding. B+ | David Lichius

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