Here’s a tip for all press agents sending digital one-sheets to my inbox: If you cite Fugazi, Jawbox, and Smart Went Crazy in the first line of the e-mail, I will check out the album and/or see the band live. Fugazi and Jawbox are a good start, but anybody citing Smart Went Crazy in 2011 earns my trust. It obviously helps if the band sounds like Fugazi, Jawbox, or Smart Went Crazy, but there’s only one way for me to find out, right? Even if you’re lying, I’ll appreciate the effort. Anything to keep “Animal Collective, Paul Simon’s Graceland, and Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys” from being applied to the newest, hottest post-chillwave record.
In the case of Grass Is Green, my excitement was doubled because those references were coming from a Boston-based group. As it turns out, three-quarters of the group are transplants from Rockville, MD, a more natural locale to be weaned on Dischord’s finest, but that fact doesn’t kill the buzz. I am drawn to math-rock guitar figures and time-signature changes like a moth to the flame, and Grass Is Green offers enough of both to make me into a burnt husk on the floor.
Don’t expect a straight hybrid of the aforementioned bands. There’s a lot of Polvo/Rectangle weirdness floating around, specifically the juxtapositions between frenetic guitar interchanges and unexpected bouts of melodic pacification. Smart Went Crazy and Fugazi register for the DC reference points, but the clearest touchstone would be a twitchier take on Faraquet’s ever-shifting math-rock, and not just because Devin Ocampo mastered their first album, Yeddo. With a few welcome exceptions, Grass Is Green aren’t prone to standing still.
It’s easy to extend that tendency to the group’s output. The ten-track Yeddo was released on Bandcamp last September, followed up in March by the seven-track Chibimoon. That’s a remarkably quick turnaround for a band bartering in jagged guitar shapes. Credit the ease of digital distribution and/or an overflow of material. Fortunately, you can grab both of these albums for a whopping $10.
The distinction between Yeddo and Chibimoon is noticeable, if by no means absolute. The former has cleaner hooks and more straight-ahead momentum, the latter has sharper left turns and greater changes in pace. Yeddo is still off-kilter, but the melodies of “No Legs,” “Feeling Different,” and “Tricky Tim’s ‘Night on the Town’” ring through the knotty thicket of guitars and percussion. The aggressively antsy “Uhm Tsk” hits the raucous energy of early Les Savy Fav, and was the highlight of their set when I caught them earlier this year.
Chibimoon is better at showing its range. Opener “Slow Machine” cycles through several whiteboards worth of passages, but never tops its hooky “Drift into the magic hour” part. “Boat Show” and “Chibimoon” start off with uncharacteristic calm, but the cathartic climax of the title track is the highlight of the record. The rollicking “Tongue in Cheek” hits its stride with a drum-crazed mid-section. “Twinkle Toes” is likely as close to a slow jam as Grass Is Green will write. This split between fifth-gear discord and lilting lullabies can make your head spin.
Even within the realm of high-energy, DC-inspired math-rock, there’s an awful lot going on in both Yeddo and Chibimoon. Grass Is Green’s compositional restlessness is both a blessing and a curse, bringing in a surplus of ideas but occasionally ushering the best ones out too soon. The easiest solution would be to cherry-pick each record, grabbing some satisfyingly skewed rockers from Yeddo and the calmer and/or weirder moments from Chibimoon, but you’d inevitably miss out on memorable passages. It’s better to get both albums and work through the knots.
Special Boston-area note: Grass Is Green is on a bill with the excellent Me You Us Them, Grandfather, and Pile at Great Scott on September 1. If you miss that superb bill, you can catch them again at the Middle East Upstairs on September 29 with fuzzed-out indie rockers Young Adults.