A name like Title Fight carries all the semiotic baggage of hardcore: blood, sweat, and impossibly high stakes. It’s quite clear that these were all primary interests of the Pennsylvania band when they formed in 2003. Of course, they were in middle school at the time, but in the eight years it took to produce their debut album, 2011’s Shed, their sound and interests remained largely elemental. On the title track and “Flood of ‘72”, Jamie Rhoden’s throat sounded like it was paved over with loose gravel, and the rest of the band seemed content to show off all the nuanced ways they could beat their instruments into the ground. Follow-up Floral Green looked toward that same ground for its title and literal theme, continuing the band’s vicious trajectory but betraying some signs (most notably the out-of-nowhere shoegazer “Head in the Ceiling Fan”) that they were anxious to move beyond their hardcore, ahem, roots.
Hyperview is a resounding statement that Title Fight hasn’t just stopped rubbing their noses in the dirt. The album is a drastic departure from anything the foursome have even attempted before, both in its lush sound and its ambitious scope. So much becomes apparent within the first 30 seconds of opening track “Murder Your Memory”, a song whose title suggests outright aggression but is really about making peace with the past and moving forward. On an earlier Title Fight record, the ominous buildup in the intro would have surely launched into a furious assault on the senses, but here it merely gives way to a sleepy, downtempo beat that seems, if anything, aggressively pleasant.
Comparisons to No Age and other post-punk outfits that toe the line between aggro and ambient are warranted, and the alt-gaze bandwagon is already overcrowded with twentysomething punks starting to outgrow the trappings of their scene. But Title Fight has a few extra tricks up its sleeve, including an uncommon penchant for melody that cuts through the hazy dreamscape on songs like lead single “Chlorine”. Longtime fans of the band may be disappointed with their new direction, but they’ll find refuge in a straightforward jam like “Mrahc” and perhaps even a thrill in “Rose of Sharon”, a highlight that successfully blends hardcore’s immediacy with the slower-burning pleasures of shoegaze and jangle pop.
Hyperview is most interesting in these moments that don’t particularly lean one way or the other. Title Fight’s ambivalence here should not be mistaken for passivity; even at its sleepiest moments, Hyperview always sounds like it has the potential to explode. Title Fight may be slowing down and looking skyward, but there’s something lurking here that suggests they haven’t taken the gloves off just yet.
Essential Tracks: “Chlorine”, “Rose of Sharon”, and “Liar’s Love”