For six years, Lethbridge, Alberta-based art-punkers Fist City have been cultivating a sound that is equally defiant and joyful, sophisticated and filthy. On their sophomore record, Everything is a Mess, the band traveled to Steve Albini's Electrical Audio studio in Chicago to record with the Men's Ben Greenberg.
Greenberg has wisely done little to alter the band's style — each song is spangling and jittery, abound with post-punk panache and buoyed by the rough, swaggering and beautifully vulnerable warble of lead singer Kier Griffiths. The songs feel like they're structured in a poppier way than previous releases, with the strongest elements (beyond Griffiths' inimitable vox) brought front and centre. "Little Sister" has a soaring lead guitar line that's deliriously new-wave-y, while "Rats" brings a wall of sound and cutting dissonance that feel both relentless and abstract.
Fist City are smart, too: while the lyrics are often obscured, it's clear that they're seeking to critically engage with their small-town surroundings on Everything is a Mess, as songs with titles like "Fuck Cops" and "End of the Good Times" don't leave too much room for interpretation.
Thoughtful, relentless, arty and uncompromisingly queer, Fist City are a rough gem in the unforgiving expanse of the Rockies. Long may they live. (Transgressive)