Absolutely pushed the pedal through the floor on 2010’s Learn To Love Mistakes, a bruising collection of twisty post-hardcore. Seething guitars slash from all angles, the drumming is powerful and militant, and guitarist/singer George Anachev’s vocals rarely recede below a crazed, ragged howl. It’s an intense listen.
Three years later, the Amp Or Sandman EP feels like an exhale; a release of the awesome tension of Mistakes. The 8-song EP is sort of a retrospective, featuring brand new material, rarities, a demo and a live recording. It traces a common thread through Absolutely’s catalog, connecting the dots between past and present and showcasing the band’s versatility while managing to feel like a whole.
The first four songs of Amp – the new ones – don’t have the same ferocity as Mistakes, and that’s not a bad thing. Opting for brighter chords and looser arrangements, the songs are groovier and catchier than anything Absolutely has written. The loopy opening riff of “Sea And Appleseed” drifts across a dense bed of drums and bass, and the three fall together like Tetris bricks on instrumental “Lady Shadow.” The surging waltz “Lady Wearing A Crab As A Hat” feels cousins to “Annie,” a grungy track from the early and limited Hand EP, which kicks off Amp’s second half. The two-headed “Pinocchio Paradox,” also from Hand, is one-part lope and one-part axe-grinder, and “Proto New Church Smell,” an early recording of the last song on Mistakes, turns out to be the better of the two versions. It’s looser and less certain than its final form, but that’s what makes it better-suited for the song’s jaded defining lyric: “I thought you said this was holy ground.”
In the absence of the wall-to-wall production that made Mistakes so punishing, Absolutely’s songwriting strengths are on full display on Amp. In fact, the album’s only misstep is its last – a muddy live version of “Denim On Denim” from Mistakes that doesn’t really compete with the album version. As good as Learn To Love Mistakes was, Absolutely can now put it safely to rest. There’s no need to keep looking backward when the present sounds this good.