Stream The Messthetics’ Self-Titled Debut Album

The Messthetics and James Brandon Lewis – The Messthetics and James Brandon Lewis

Brendan Canty and Joe Lally, better known as the rhythm section of ‘90s post-hardcore legends Fugazi, began the pivot to jazz about seven years ago, teaming up with eclectic guitar virtuoso Anthony Pirog to form instrumental trio the Messthetics. The addition of up-and-coming tenor saxophonist James Brandon Lewis—and, now, their debut album on storied jazz label Impulse!—has made that transition complete. 

Yet their expansion into a sax-driven quartet somehow finds the Messthetics sounding more like Fugazi than ever. Pirog has largely dialed back his noisy, genre-shredding pyrotechnics to accommodate Lewis’ fluid, fiery playing, which gives the chunky rhythms and rubbery grooves of Canty’s drums and Lally’s bass more room to stretch out and unwind. The stuttering, dubby sway of opener “L’Orso” will be instantly familiar to fans of Fugazi songs like “Long Distance Runner,” while the mellow nod of “Fourth Wall” could be an outtake from that band’s final album, The Argument.

While this familiarity will prove soothing to the old heads, it’s not an exercise in nostalgia—Lewis and Pirog’s winding, melodic accompaniment and searing, soaring solos take each track, whether it’s a juicy barnburner like “That Thang” or a delicate mood piece like the beginning of “Boatly,” in surprising directions. The album, recorded in just a couple days, has a rough immediacy that showcases the band’s chemistry—with each member pushing the others outside of their comfort zones, however gradually.

Hopefully, this is just the beginning of a beautiful—if sonically volatile—friendship. GRADE: A- 

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