At a Loss for Words, Fish and Venison Dodge Static

Last time out, Brooklyn's Semiautomatic sang, "I don't want to hear about race, gender, or genre. . . . As far as human inventions go, I prefer the SLUSHEE MACHINE," in a vain attempt not to come off like teacher's pets. But being a teacher's pet isn't so bad if you've got a teacher who challenges you, and anyway genre is way better than ice cream.

Like revered stickbutts the Gang of Four, Semiautomatic want to think critically but can't find words to convey the world they're thinking about. And on Wolfcentric, unfortunately, Akiko Carver has become too much a dead fish who sounds stiffest when trying to sing with abandon, and her guitar-jitters won't dance. But—as with the Gang of Four—there's charm and passion in the attempt, and beauty and excitement in her guitar spillage, and an underlying sadness.

As the band name implies, Semiautomatic futz around with similarities between man and machine. So do Bowling Green's Stylex, who declare, "I'm not the one in control, I am a machine and I do as I'm told," as their equipment produces fuzz, hum, and fluster. "Have you considered the circuitry of this craft?" No. Should I? Singer Dustin Hostetler employs the Byrne-Devo technique of sounding like a deer caught in headlights, and not only enjoys feigning panic, but kicks the music along while doing so. The lyrics on Auto Focus feign meaning, too—"Time is a parasite, and like I said, it's time for bed"—and this reticence is probably the result of genuine fear. What's actually eloquent is the way Stylex whisper their one great track, "Gamerom." They're rocking out among the sparks and static, but gingerly.

 
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