That old Cobainian adage “punk is musical freedom” might sound cliché today but Marco del Rio — the primary force behind New York punk contortionists Raspberry Bulbs — embodies the notion fully. Exploring everything from cantankerous black metal to thrash to eerie found-sound tinkerings on the quintet’s latest LP Privacy, Raspberry Bulbs’ disinterest in genre classification makes their deceptively simple songs and raw-nerved energy so immensely gratifying. While on last year’s excellent Deformed Worship, del Rio and company hammered out sludgy riffs with a gleefully sinister resolve, it was almost overbearing. Privacy is just as gritty and untamed, but it’s hookier, employing familiar song structures that help Raspberry Bulbs touch on something resembling “pop.”
Raspberry Bulbs are still somewhat amorphous, but Privacy seems intent on giving them them shape. There’s the grim, gothic cruncher “Lionhead 1,” the hard-charging guitar attack of single “Light Surrounds Me” and “Big Grin”‘s scummy funk. The queasy, vigorous “How the Strings Are Pulled” manages to make room for “woaaaaaah-oh!” backup vocals and an uncommonly straightforward guitar solo, while the detuned mutant surf rock of “Nail Biting” suggests hanging ten on a tidal wave of medical waste. And while the brief, unsettling ambient pieces (a demented music box, what sounds like an aluminum baseball bat being dragged across macadam, etc.) that make up almost half the album’s tracklist may seem indulgent, they serve as a reminder of del Rio’s aversion to compromise.