Coming across this EP was a pleasant experience for me. I haven’t listened much to punk since high school, so I always love coming across a new punk band. Joe 4 is a four-piece punk outfit from Zagreb, Croatia. I’m not sure what exactly to call them, since “punk” is a little vague for my likings. I’ll call them hardcore punk, since I find it relatively fitting. The Enola Gay EP was released last summer, and precedes what I understand is a new release due soon.
The seventeen-minute EP features some fierce duality. Play it in the background while doing chores or talking to friends, and you’ll hear a pretty typical punk EP. You’ll hear the coarse, throaty vocals. You’ll hear the highly punctual rhythms. You’ll hear the aggressive, minor tonality in the heavy guitars. If you listen in passing, you’ll likely mistake them for a typical New York hardcore punk band from the eighties. Don’t be fooled, though. These guys know a thing or two about technique. Take the opening riff for the first track, “Pigman”. It’s this huge riff that pulls you right in. It features a simple Rage Against The Machinesque melody, and while this seems like a typical ploy of a punk band, you may notice that the opening, as well as a large portion of the EP, is not as much about the melody as it is about the rhythm. It’s in 5/4 rather than 4/4 (for those of you that are unfamiliar with time signatures, most pop songs you’ll hear are in 4/4. If you can count from one to four comfortably in accordance to the rhythm of a song, it’s probably in 4/4. Four beats per measure. Fairly simple. 5/4 breaks that up a little by extending the count an extra beat). While I have nothing against common time, a great way to win me over is to play with time signatures. I am by no means shy in my love for math and progressive, so it’s no secret that I love to hear this stuff. It’s what gets me going back to listen again. You see more of the like in the second track, “Postman,” where the first section is a three measure grouping with one measure in 4/4 and the second two in 10/8 (arguments can be made for 8/8 and 5/4 respectively; I am admittedly a bit rusty in my music theory). These examples aren’t even the most complex ones on the EP, but I don’t want to get too deep into the intricacies of the time signatures. If none of this made any sense to you, try tapping your foot or walking to the beat, and you’ll get it. Kudos to the drummer.
Enough about rhythm. Melodically, the EP is pretty sound. This is where you get your punk fix. There is a lot of approximation of pitch, which is damn near a necessity to good punk. It gives the vocals, as well as the song as a whole, character. With respect to the instrumentation, the melodies are relatively cyclic and simplistic. While in some music, this would prove to be a detriment, you can feel while listening to the EP that it serves to keep the tracks coherent and enjoyable, given how much is going on with the rhythm. It also gives the music its drive. It’s what gets your foot tapping and your head banging.
As a whole, the EP has a few shortcomings. For starters, if you were to put the EP on repeat and just listen to it for a few hours, or shuffle the playlist and play the tracks in a randomized order, you would have no idea where you were. The tracks lack distinction from one another. Having listened to the EP a couple dozen times, I can recognize “Pigman” relatively easily, but beyond that, I’m pretty much guessing. Next, there were a few melodic sequences, things as simple as particular progressions, that could have been written to suit the encompassing music a little better (the sequence in “Johnny” at 2:03 is one that sticks out the most to me; it’s literally a matter of one pitch that sets the chord to be unsavory). While of course it’s a matter of stylistic choice, I can’t get past it. My biggest issue with the EP was that the music never really peaked. If it did, it was not as big as it could have and should have been. There was a stagnation within each song and across the EP that I just could not get over. This opinion of mine has softened to an extent over my numerous listenings of the EP, but the sentiment still stands.
So…? I got really excited when I first started listening to the Enola Gay EP. I really did. It felt like listening to the introduction to At The Drive In’s “Arcarsenal,” which is a phenomenal way to start a song and an album. Joe 4 has these tidal waves of force. Unfortunately, I felt like the waves never broke, unless they were the ones that splashed your ankles, maybe your calves, and it left me feeling unfulfilled. However, like I mentioned earlier, it is my understanding that there is a full-length release due in the near future, and I am genuinely excited about this. The Enola Gay EP gave me a taste of what Joe 4 is capable of, and I want more. They’re clearly capable musicians, and they have a great, unique sound. I want to see where they will go. Three out of five kegs.