Since 2010, the visceral and abrasive Olympia trio Naomi Punk have been mainstays in the Pacific Northwest’s DIY punk scene. Still, their first album, 2012’s The Feeling, got bogged down by sophomoric predictability and noisy songs that felt calculated where they were trying to be reckless. Now, with Television Man, the band’s second album, they improve on much of their debut’s downsides with better songwriting, but are unable to fully overcome the flaws.
In many ways, Television Man is startlingly similar to The Feeling, not only in structure but in Travis Coster and Neil Gregerson’s distinctively muddy guitar tones. Both albums have three interconnected instrumentals that recycle mood and chord progressions, and almost every track highlights Gregerson’s thrashing sensibilities. From the sludgy pummeling of “Firehose Face” to the sludgy pummeling of “Television Man” to the sludgy pummeling of “Eleven Inches”, it may be a bit one-note, but on those tracks, the aggression is wholly effective. Throughout, guitars overpower and muffle Coster’s cavernous yelping, making him sound like a man trapped in a tunnel. Mostly, the tactic works for its dark and distant atmosphere, but sometimes the album would benefit from a louder vocal mix.
While those three songs show the band at its edgy, jangly peak, the other offerings take the same formula (primal, aggressive guitars and briskly yelled phrases) and fail to reach those heights. “Eons of Pain”, released as a 7-inch in 2013, meanders for its first two minutes with one droning chord. The payoff, a muted crescendo of bracing vocals and dissonance, is hardly the desired result, while other songs, like “Linoleum Tryst #19”, are more repetitive, even nearly grating. If Naomi Punk can break away from getting stuck in their own static tendencies and bring more variation and spark to their albums, they’ll have something really special. But for now, with the biting and enjoyable Television Man, the band feels a bit stuck in a predictable art punk sludge.
Essential Tracks: “Eleven Inches”, “Firehose Face”, and “Television Man”