The Reptilian – Full Health (EP)

The Reptilian - Full Health EP coverKalamazoo. What a place to live that must be. The name just rolls off the tongue: Kalamazoo. According to Wikipedia the name is derived from an old Potawatomi word; a Native American tribe from the area around Lake Michigan. Kalamazoo. The closest I can get to that is the crappy kazoo I bought to irritate the rest of my band. It didn’t work; the whole thing was funny for about two minutes and most of that was me not knowing how to use it.

The Reptilian, then, hail from one of my favourite-named places. As best I can figure out they’ve been going since about 2007 (I base this on the age of their MySpace page ‘cuz they don’t really have a bio) and since then have released a few records, including a few splits. Sometime last year their bassist left and, in time-honoured “the band dynamic is the people” tradition, the others decided that getting someone else in just wouldn’t work and instead dropped second guitar in order to cover four-string duties. On the basis of Full Health I would honestly not have guessed that these songs were written by/for a four-piece outfit (or, at least, are the first songs from a 3-piece that was until recently a 4-piece). They’re impressively accomplished pieces of rock music that draw from a variety of genres; you’ve got your noodling clean emo sound, your occasional jazz-influenced drumbeats, your occasional math-rock rhythms, and of course the inherently diverse rulebooks of indie and punk.

The opening track, ‘Pretty Big Doses’, introduces you pretty promptly to a core juxtaposition of the band’s sound. That is Jon Sacha’s piss & vinegar vocals alongside the modern “twinkly shit” sound ala. CSTVT, Grown Ups, and many of the Reptilian’s own labelmates such as Football, Etc. There is definitely something in that Midwest water, and it began in the 1990s. Anyway, the Reptilian aren’t the first to attempt this juxtaposed style but they certainly pull it off well, with Sacha’s snarled, spat and gruffly sung vocals improbably meshing with the warm power chords and occasional slower noodling of the guitar and bass.

There’s also a sense of humour to the band, a good-natured acknowledgement of nerd culture. Second track ‘Dungeons & Drag Queens’ (which has a particularly fun and speedy intro from drummer Riehl) is one such example, and another is ‘Bulls on Potron’ – which I’m guessing is a reference to Rage Against the Machine’s ‘Bulls on Parade’ but I don’t get “Potron”. Not that it matters; song titles are often in-jokes of some kind anyway. ‘Roman Sideburns’, anyone? ‘200% Sweater’? Actually, the latter is one of my favourite tunes present, seeming just a shade more energetic and passionate than its fellows, full of stop-start moments of intricate picks and slamming drums then hanging chords and lush fills.

The seven tracks present are over in 17 minutes, so blink and you’ll miss what I suppose I should technically call a mini-album. I also recommend this record and band as one to watch, as I suspect that the Reptilian will become a name more widely known outside their Midwest stomping grounds over the coming year – at least among those in the know. You know?

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