Fiery guitars and grunge-style beats are something of a commodity to the mainstream pop consumer these days, but for those of us who live on the left side of the dial, they’re hard to ignore when they’re being played by a band as talented as La Need Machine are. La Need Machine has been making rock their business for years now, lighting up an otherwise dismal Seattle scene that hasn’t done much for anyone outside of the insular hip-hop underground in recent memory, and their latest album Killer Instinct picks up right where their lauded 2020 effort Home left off.
In Killer Instinct’s best tracks, like “Alice” and “Hot Dog,” the tonality of the instrumentation is put on an equal plane of existence with the lyricism, frequently leaving our singer to battle it out with her instrumental counterparts in a quest for the lion’s share of our attention. The forced sonic sparring doesn’t lead to unevenness in the performance, however, as it soon becomes impossible for even the most discriminating of critics to deny how well these players gel together – particularly when they’re competing for the limelight. From “Hometown Heroes” to “She Loves Rock and Roll” and single-quality “Herculean Tasks,” this is a rocker’s delight unsaddled with the burden of fitting into a mainstream-approved shell.
“Herculean Tasks” could hit record store shelves as a single and work exceptionally well, and spending even a cursory listening session with the song indicates why it was likely chosen for the task of gluing the tracklist in its parent album together. The vocal, the swing of the guitars, and even the pristine punchiness of the drums speak to the core values this band is all about, while other deep cuts like “Scary Voices” and “Need Machines” tell us a different story of their future ambitions. There’s a lot of duality to the bigger picture in this LP, starting with the underlying emotional themes tying all of the different songs here together.
We’re constantly faced with lyrical references to longing for something that we just can’t acquire – chasing something if you will, that cannot be caught. The anguish this yields isn’t left without purpose but made into the launchpad for every rocketing riff we find between the title cut and other performances like “Fourth Gear” and the previously mentioned “Hometown Heroes.”
La Need Machine has done a lot in their career together, but if you were getting the idea that their campaign was soon too slow – or that their traveling rock n’ roll showcase was about to shutter – Killer Instinct will do a terrific job of putting you and every other critic in their place. Tracks like “Negative,” “Hot Dog,” and “Herculean Tasks” don’t ask for us to sit down and pay attention to the aesthetical details they contain just to bask in the swell of ridiculous sonic virtuosity; they smash us in the face with adrenaline and affection for the standards hard rock’s elite used to hold on a universal level. They make me believe in this genre’s viability post-COVID, and I think I’m not the only one who will say so thanks to Killer Instinct.
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