Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Ceremony Creates Some Hysteria

There may be something to look forward to with the upcoming release of Zoo by Bay Area punk band Ceremony. It's the first release by Matador Records and with it comes producer John Goodmanson (Sleater-Kinney, Girls, Weezer). The color vinyl release is long sold out.

What this means to anyone following Ceremony is they will stick with singer Ross Farrar's biting themes, but remain bent on polishing out those jagged edges from their debut days. Being called a sonically crude and destructive force in hardcore punk hardly fits anymore. The band, who once said they came together as a bunch of guys who didn't know what to do with themselves, knows exactly what they want to do.

That isn't a bad thing at all. The diversity split some people heard on Rohnert Park might be falling by the wayside as Ceremony seems much more likely to commit with their new single.

Hysteria is a different, moving away from hardcore.

"I have a little window I peer out of at my house in Rohnert Park where I sit at night and write things down that have come to me throughout the day," frontman Farrar recently wrote for the band's website. "Most of the stuff has to do with people, how we treat each other, and our ever increasing ability to hurt one another, as well as unconditionally love."

As the first single in advance of the album in early March, Hysteria is about the former but delivered in a way that long-time listeners would not expect from Ceremony. Where is works, however, is in laying down the primer for a new sound. It's one of their most well crafted songs, even if it doesn't carry the usual pummel.

At the opening, Hysteria kicks things off with stick clicks before descending into a grinding drum set and guitar teasers. As the drums settle into a steady thump, the guitars power up into a cross between revivalist punk and garage rock, setting up Farrar to fire up his distinctive lyrics and vocals.

Two minutes into the song, almost everyone expects something hugely deconstructive to wrap it up. But nothing ever really happens. The song drifts into a group chant providing Farrar a vocal backup to deliver the last chorus before the song whimpers out.

Any concern over the single is largely unfounded. It's good.

It's the anti-climax that seems to be the primary reason some reviewers are selling Hysteria short. And maybe they are right to a point. But what I hear is something very different. The end of the song provides the perfect set up to power into something heavier on the album or rip into whatever they want  during their live performances.

Since I don't know if that's true, I started digging around and came up with a review by Peter Lillis, who attended a recent live performance at Le Poisson Rouge. He says that is exactly what happens, writing that Hysteria thrives with a third dimension you would never hear off of a studio album.

But if Hysteria isn't enough to give you a sense of things of come, check out this recent video release by Matador with footage from the same concert Lillis reviewed. The song is World Blue from Zoo.

Since the beginning of the band, Farrar has said that what was most important to them was staying inspired. Unlike other bands that sometimes ride their sound into the grave, Zoo could be the right time for the band to change things up while still keeping their penchant for making loud sounds.

Hysteria By Ceremony Primes 6.2 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

The real measure of the music will come out in March with the release of Zoo. In the meantime, along with Hysteria, check out the band's last EP with Bridge Nine Records. It's packed with six covers, with Holocaust being the bright spot on the album.

Hysteria can be found on iTunes. The single is also up at Amazon. If you are looking for Ceremony on social networks, we'll save you some trouble. Visit their site where they point out that you won't find them on Facebook, MySpace, or Twitter.
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