Post-hardcore bands have always been described in ways that make them sound joyless. They’re confrontational and uncomfortable, playing quiet-to-loud dynamic shifts like uppercuts aimed just below your chin. And by and large, that’s the framework Big Ups has been placed in. They’ve written songs that showed vocalist Joe Galarraga’s ability to shift between snarky spoken passages into lung-clearing shouts, with guitarist Amar Lal stomping on distortion pedals to punctuate those moments. But on Two Parts Together, Big Ups makes it clear they weren’t shouting you down, they were offering sharp, observational humor as loud as possible.
Out May 18 on Exploding In Sound, Two Parts Together is the Brooklyn band’s most streamlined batch of songs and their most transparent. While Galarraga’s lyrics still focus on mundane interactions, they read as curt in-jokes instead of combative screeds. “Look into the crystal and see what you wanna see,” he screams on “PPP,” and on “Fear,” he admits his anxiety about both the known and unknown. Each song drips with a bit of gallows humor, playing like Galarraga loudly declaring “We’re all fucked” with a crooked smile and hearty chuckle at the very end.
But what makes the songs on Two Parts Together pop is that, well, they don’t feel like two things smashed together. Lal’s riffs flow smoothly into one another, making songs that don’t try to smack you upside the head with heaviness as much as they expand and contract on a single point. “Tell Them” shows that, while Galarraga may be the band’s face, Big Ups has become an excellent stand-in for late-period Fugazi. But instead of strident political screeds, Big Ups assert that maybe we’re all just bumbling idiots trying to make things work for as long as we can. Galarraga’s lyrics aren’t didactic, instead serving like the kind of casual musings that are taken best as punchlines.
Listen to Two Parts Together below and order it from Exploding in Sound.