These unusually tightly wound proponents of the well-established AmRep mindset — laymen should imagine malicious smart guys who look like grad students but carry blackjacks to bludgeon unsuspecting bystanders — operate with the unconscious mindmeld of a free jazz ensemble. Their “gimmick” (although they don’t treat it as one) is the lack of a bass player: okay, guitarists Jared Aos and Gene Tangren occasionally resort to use of the four-stringed beast but, mostly, they lock horns and put the pedals to the treble. Let the eardrums beware.
The Minneapolis trio’s self-titled debut (released hot on the heels of the improbably infectious “Bad Syd” single) charges the air with static electricity but fails to put that spark to much use, although a pair of garage-rock covers do muster a snotty snarl. Rub cuts back on the “rock” component of the band’s sound, letting drummer Roy Llerandi lead a mostly fruitful sonic scavenger hunt along the banks of the River Skronk.
Although Ventriloquist begins with a head-turning change of pace — “Love Withdrawal,” a fuzzed-out sliver of post-Mudhoney garage-punk — the album settles into a more familiar misanthropic rage by the middle of “Rocket V,” a spoken (make that shouted) word diatribe about noisy neighbors (talk about the pot calling the kettle black!). Inspirational verse: “Open the door/Let me in/I swear I’ll bash your brains out if I have to.”
About halfway through the recording of Ventriloquist, Llerandi was replaced by Bill Beeman. Beeman’s receptiveness to the simple 4/4 — and the more widespread use of bass — makes Nail Hole more conventionally rhythmic than its predecessors, bounded by the Midwest punk swagger of “King of Terror” on one hand and the post-psychedelic spuzz of “Up the Road” on the other.