Californian 4-piece Plague Vendor show us how it’s done on their third LP.
On their two previous albums they excelled in short, sharp power-punk. The four years since their second album, Bloodsweat, hasn't resulted in a major change in their sound, however with John Congleton (St.Vincent/Blondie/John Grant) on production duties, and an emphasis on dirty grooves, By Night is pumped-up beast and wastes no time in blasting you with pissy but danceable post-punk chaos.
Lead single "New Comedown"'s jittery urgency is kept in line with funky basslines and drumming executed with the precision of techno, lead singer Brandon Blaine switching from nonchalant cool in the verse, to hysterically wailing "You put me down / You're the new comedown" in the chorus, with buzzing, nagging guitar riffs so fierce they're like being stabbed repeatedly in the ears. In a good way.
Riffage is another tweak of their sound and By Night is crammed with great ones. The Sonic Youth-gone-metal riffs on "Nothing's Wrong" are sexy and swaggering, with Blaine screaming "There's nothing wrong with me / There's something wrong with you" with pure disgust, while the funk and disco influences on "All of The Above", with yelps of "Alriiiiight" and jagged slashes of post-punk guitars prove that rage can be as dancey as hell when it’s in the right hands.
It's not all white knuckle intensity, when they switch to a lighter mode By Night really comes up with the goods. The campy prowl of "Let Me Get High" borrows its sleaze from The Cramps, sexy punk banger "Prism" is everything The Hives wish they could still make, while the '60s beat group strutting on "Night Sweats" will have you reminiscing about The Strokes' imperial phase.
Hip-hop also makes an appearance on the anxiety-ridden, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion-influenced "Snakeskin Boots", Blaine impressively moving from punk yelps to convincing rapping: "There in the corner, I've been waiting for you there / black bags and clown face just looking for you to stare / moves like Fred Astaire - DAMN!", the nervous energy suggesting danger, or impending first-time sex.
By Night, apparently named due to the smash and grab nature of late-night studio sessions, is muscular, robust and takes no prisoners. It does its noisy thing swiftly, leaving you feeling shattered and somewhat dazed afterward. A perfect representation of punk rock in 2019, then.