Baltimore duo Ed Schrader’s Music Beat are like time travelers on a mission, visiting from a time not too long ago when indie music was less fashionable and much weirder. While the drums-and-bass outfit’s first album Jazz Mind flirted with free jazz, noise, and beat poetry/wacko ranting, their second album Party Jail narrows the focus to wild post-punk alternating with jabs at naïve indie pop ― sort of a happy meeting of ’90s Discord Records and ’90s K Records.
The title track is a hot slice of raw boned dance punk made for a freaky dance party someplace airless and illegal. On such songs, singer-songwriter and drummer Schrader wrests sturdy, rump-moving beats from his lone floor tom, while bassist Devin Rice locks into grimey punk-boogie grooves. They get an outsized amount and variety of rock ‘n’ roll from their minimalist set-up. Opener “Pantomine Jack” flips between laid-back Gun Club-style goth punk and a violently shrill chorus. (Schrader’s vocals can cycle between Calvin Johnson lowing and Ian Svenonius shrieking with alarming speed.) On “No Fascination” proto and post collapse into a sweet, hyphen-free punk song. Other bits traverse mellower Beat Happening type territory. With warm, gentle bass lines and rambling sleep-talk lyrics “Pink Moons” and “Laughing” in particular provide an odd kind of uplift on an album otherwise crammed with gnarly low end and spooky ramblings about “dog teeth” and “radio eyes.” Most songs on this 26 minute recording don’t take up much more than two of those minutes, making listening a bit like scarfing a box of delicious if questionably flavored chocolates, and the unrepentant oddness of it all is cause for both nostalgia and wonder.