Black Wine – Summer of Indifference (LP)

Summer of Indifference coverFrom the first abrasive and buzzing chords and snarling female vocals of ‘Spit to See the Shame’ you know you’re on to something that’s at least a little bit special. And okay, sure, I’m tempted to make predictable references to Joan Jett’s songwriting attitude or the indie-rock riot grrl stylings of Sleater-Kinney – obvious, yes, but there’s an unmissable connection there.

But as you move on you’re wrong-footed by what follows; with ‘Throat the Foam’ Black Wine switch to male vocals with a compelling and plaintive edge to them, marrying that to a song that recalls the earnest punkish power-pop of Cheap Girls more than the confrontational proto-punk riffs of ‘Spit to See the Shame’. The ending feels a little limp in comparison to the memorable chorus vocal line, which is a shame, but as ‘End of Days’ kicks in things change up again. The song marries the aggressive verses with plenty of attitude to choruses that switch focus to something warmer and more melodic. It certainly helps that lyrics like “Dedicated to the one I hate / And if I hate myself hard enough / Then your insults won’t mean that much” manage to capture timeless rock and roll character at the same time as not coming off like a washed-out carbon copy of something done a thousand times before.

Don’t get fooled, though, because this dichotomous approach is not the only trick up the sleeve of Summer of Indifference. ‘Favourites’ is next up and it’s led by male vocals, but varies between something structurally reminiscent of 80s US hardcore punk and the previously established power-pop sound. And so on, and on.

What you’ve essentially got here is an endearingly varied collection of songs that are nonetheless consistent in personality and establish Black Wine as a band in full control of themselves. It’s an album that sounds and feels authentically literate in punk rock and everything that can be traced to and from that vast and disparate cultural, musical history.

There are plenty more surprises on offer here, such as the the whimsical ‘Ocean’s Skin’ and it’s tumbling, playful riffs, or ‘Hand’s vocal refrain of “the blood of a stranger is in my hand” which makes me think of Apocalypse Hoboken as performed by Shellac. I shan’t spoil absolutely everything, though, and instead invite you to explore and enjoy Summer of Indifference in your own time.

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P.S. Black Wine features The Erg’s Jeff Schroek alongside Miranda Taylor and J Nixon from Hunchback (a band little-known outside the US, in my experience, but worth a visit by the punk devotee). This goes some way toward explaining the band’s versatility and breadth of influence. Still, I deliberately left this mention until the very end because I feel Black Wine deserve to be judged on their own terms.

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