Truth be told, I’m a pretty simple guy. I’d much rather be curled up with a book by the fireplace than out clubbing, and my ideal date consists of little more than food and friendly conversation. It’s why, despite my vast interest in all things heavy metal, you’d be just as likely to catch me spinning a late 90’s alternative rock album as you would be to walk in on one of my living room mosh sessions. And this itching for simplicity is also why the debut full-length from Brine, an up-and-coming post punk revival group, caught my eye.
Much like me, Kill the Ill is simple. None of the pretension that plagues much of the genre is present, replaced with with 37 minutes of punchy, accessible, and varied material. Though things kick off with the upbeat, riff-driven title track, Brine are at their best when displaying their songwriting chops on the record’s quirkier numbers. “Asylum” is a nervy post punk track of the highest caliber, combining a haunting vocal performance with opaque, moody lyrics. On the other hand, things pick up a bit for the catchy, introspective “Lies Atone,” a song that gives frontman Daniel Keating some room to stretch his range and deliver an impactful performance. Kill the Ill doesn’t boast a great deal of complexity or technicality, but I suppose that’s part of its quiet effectiveness; Keating’s vocals paired with emotional, bass-heavy instrumentation and offbeat lyricism provide all the atmosphere that the record needs to succeed.
The bass guitar does have the tendency to overpower the rest of the instrumentation on occasion—something that I never thought I’d write about a rock album—but Kill the Ill’s production works in Brine’s favor for the most part. Instrumentally, songs generally center on either an upbeat riff or a dissonant melody, though things never feel repetitive thanks to the record’s tight runtime. Some further exploration of the saxophone featured on “Asylum” and “Rats Asleep” would’ve been appreciated, as not a whole lot is done with that musical idea, but what’s there is solid enough. My main gripe with Kill the Ill is its rather obtuse nature; I have no problem with weird, offbeat music, but when an entire record is made up of tracks with strange lyrics that lack clear cohesion with one another, the album as a whole can be difficult to fully embrace. Still, each individual song featured on Kill the Ill is quite good, and as a collection of odd little ditties, the record as a whole succeeds.
Post punk is by no means my genre of choice, but the intelligent simplicity of Brine’s debut full-length fit my musical palette like a glove on the very first spin; it’s a record that packs all of the genre’s nervy, clever punch while avoiding any of the pretension that plagues it. The prevailing opaqueness of it all can be frustrating at times, but the fact of the matter is that this is an enviable debut release and a promising start for a band who seem to see things a little bit differently—this isn’t the sort of album that you’d expect to hear in 2016, and Kill the Ill is all the better for it.