The novelty of a guitar-and-drum duo can go to a band’s collective head and cork it with unearned, fictitious indie merit. It’s equally capable of overwhelming an insecure group, prompting it to overcompensate for the empty space with hollow riffs and aimless rhythms. Bands that populate the latter category often use time against their listeners; they cosh them over the head with odd meters and indulgent noise throughout abrasively long or short songs, effectively hashing out a political statement about the traditional notion of a song and neglecting the intangibles that matter to listeners. These misled duos create the illusion of integrity by stressing the contrast of musical and structural limits against a conspicuous lack thereof. The other class of hair-brained half-bands conquers the Boston basement scene with arrogance. Clad in their most ironic Sunday’s best, they adorn their strange time signatures with irrelevant percussion and disjointed melody to bully those born with square, Western ears into feigning enthusiasm to fit in.
Fat History Month invalidates the stigmas that trail the increasingly omnipotent gaggle of ill-intentioned two-piece bands cavorting around Boston. More importantly, the Allston basement veterans banish the stigmas that said bands harbor within their audiences to survive. Fat History Month’s latest 7-inch via Bedroom Suck Records employs the same customary concoction of punk, prog, jazz, and other genres that may or may not exist outside the realm of citizens’ media, but it boasts a communal energy that too often eludes their peers. They are as dedicated to conveying this raw, basely human vigor as they are to separating themselves from the oversaturated, seemingly nicheless horde of traditional underground rock bands. Significantly, it’s this very lack of effort that separates Fat History Month from the droves of bands grasping out at straws to annex their ‘unique’ style from the very scene to which they belong.
Side A manifests as “Safe & Sound,” a persistent but never relentless, crash-driven pacemaker. The hypnotic central riff and furry drums create a diversion while the dynamic shifts to wriggle just enough space for mouse-effected, indecipherable vocals to percolate almost unnoticed. Just as quickly as you perceive the track’s heightened intensity, it ends, having generated momentous anticipation for the B-side without allowing a single melody or lick to be retained by the short-term memory.
“Here Comes The Sun,” a presumably unintentional reference to the eponymous George Harrison artifact, plunges and bounds through a seemingly ceaseless loud-soft-loud dynamic without indulging itself to the point of a gimmick. The drums are passively active as they deliberately trail just a hair short of the frenzied guitar with equal sums of haste and poise. The guitar layers its own robust tone repeatedly until it creates an intriguing dynamic of rhythm and melody, almost as if the beat is composed of melodic trills and licks.
And while Fat History Month never hesitates to milk an unconventional rhythm or chord progression for all it’s worth, the duo refuses to use anything, traditional, deviant, or otherwise, as a crutch to compensate for brash or uncalculated songwriting. Instead of using deliberately off-putting elements to trick or pressure the listener into spinning the track again, they use unmemorable yet enticing melodies to highlight the present and invite their listeners to listen without any prerequisites or homework. Even as Allston’s resident guitar-and-drum novelty band totes nearly four years of basement-bound experience and history, Fat History Month is a band of the present. And, like the present, they are impossible to grasp and encapsulate. But they sure as hell make it fun to try.