An extremely entertaining instrumental rock project
Instrumental rock can be tough to get into for the average music listener. The lack of lyrics can easily be misinterpreted as a lack of direction or purpose. When The Messthetics, ex-Fugazi members Joe Lally and Brendan Canty, as well as guitarist Anthony Pirog, came together to make their second album, they probably didn’t have the average music listener in mind. However, on Anthropocosmic Nest, they make a deeply compelling album with few weak spots that have the potential to entertain many more ears than the average (often inaccessible) instrumental rock album.
First of all, the group creates a very tangible sense of momentum and weight as the album moves from track to track, all without the help of lyrics. The first few tracks introduce the album with a series of quick-fire, fast-paced and truly incessant jams. The very first song, “Better Wings,” is the first example of the Messthetics referring to their punk background, and employing a heavier guitar tone to fantastic effect. The next three keep up the energy and punk influence, before a brief interlude-like track in “The Assignment.” The following three tracks take a more abstract approach. They are lower energy and slower tempo, but still exhibit an incredible amount of instrumental skill. It feels like there is less interaction than the first few tracks, where the best parts felt almost math rock-adjacent in nature, due to the many instruments bouncing off each other. While the group does a great job in this lane, it is not their strength, and the middle tracks on the album are definitely not quite as entertaining as the more driven start.
After another very obtuse, interlude-like track, the project concludes with “La Lontra” and “Touch Earth Touch Sky.” This is probably the best two-track sequence on the project. The “La Lontra” guitar parts are absolutely mind-melting, and the brief drum breaks separate the more intense sections beautifully without losing any of the energy that drives this barn burner. Finally, we reach “Touch Earth Touch Sky,” a song just as otherworldly as its title. It’s absolutely fantastic. Despite the fact that up to the point in the album, the band’s strong suit has been of a much more fast-paced nature, this six-minute prog rock-influenced, slow burn is an absolute joy. This cut allows the usual instrumentation to breathe at a more individual level. The guitars have their moment, the bass has some time to show off, and the drums back it all up beautifully. It’s as if Lally, Canty and Pirog have reached the conclusion of this whole production, and are offering up this song as thanks to their instruments for the power that they allow musicians to wield so uniquely.
While Anthropocosmic Nest’s best work lies at the beginning and end of the project, it’s still a very solid listen from front to back. The Messthetics created a work of instrumental rock that defies anyone who would question the value of rock without lyrics. The group has found a way to make their instruments interact that feels almost lyrical, in a way. They’ve done something completely unique, without compromising their style; a truly admirable, artistic accomplishment.