REVIEW: ’68 – “Two Parts Viper”

We all probably know about Norma Jean. The band originally had a vocalist called Josh Scogin, who left the band in 2002, and then decided to go with a new project, The Chariot. Unfortunately, The Chariot dissolved in 2013, and with it an extremely talented and energetic live band was gone. But what did Scogin do? Quit music? No way! He instantly teamed up with drummer Michael McClellan to found a new band, now known as ’68.

Their début In Humor And Sadness was released in 2013 via eOne, and received decent critical reception. Now, four years later, the duo is back with a new record called Two Parts Viper. Falling somewhere in between punk and noise rock, the band is now also experimenting with a grunge-informed aesthetic. Fans of The Chariot won’t be able to deny the apparent similarities, but let’s go more into detail of what Two Parts Viper actually sounds like!

Kurt Cobain Would’ve Been proud

A song like “Without Any Words” could have easily appeared on a Nirvana record, as it has the same grunge-y vibe. It reminds me of “Polly”, and Scogin doesn’t sound all that different from Kurt Cobain. Feels almost strange to know that this music came out just weeks ago and not decades! A similar sense of nostalgia can also be found in”The Workers Are Few”, even though the song has more of a hardcore punk attitude than the aforementioned one. Part of ’68‘s charm is their diverse approach, with various parts of their songs ranging from oldschool hardcore to punk and prog rock akin to bands as diverse as Thrice, Norma Jean, and King Crimson.

Maybe it’s the pink artwork that reminds me of Closure In Moscows‘s latest record Pink Lemonade, or maybe it’s the vocals and instrumental parts that are comparable to the Australian prog rock outfit. The group shouts in songs like “Whether Terrified Or Unafraid” create a party mood that is pure fun to listen to; I expect this spirit to translate even better at a live show than on the record itself. And of course, there is always tiny bit of The Chariot‘s influence to be found, which is undoubtedly due to Scogin’s distinct vocals, as well as the guitar squeals that were established on that band’s magnificent Long Live (just take a listen to “Evan Perks“ and you will know what I am talking about).

At least in my dreams, I still believe we can

The record ends with “What More Can I Say”, a song that starts off very ambient, with Scogin singing over said ambiance. This infects the recipient with a mood very similar to what Dan Smith aka Listener (who also collaborated with The Chariot on their song “David De La Hoz”) is able to conjure up. Imagine how amazing a collaboration on this record would have been, at least/especially on this closing track! The ambiance ends, and as the drums come in, this finale truly delivers hope and a very happy, positive perspective, which is also underlined by the vocals.

I don’t want to keep it a secret that I had my fair share of problems getting into Two Parts Viper, simply because the record isn’t that easily accessable. There’s a lot of strange things going on; some vocal phrasings and vocalises are kinda improvised (especially feeling-wise), and the one who did the mastering seems to have forgotten about these. There are also the heavy grooves that seem to be out of tempo, which lends a very DIY, hardcore punk attitude to the music.

DIY Hardcore Punk Attitude

It might be this particular attitude which inspires ’68 to become as organic and vivid as they are on Two Parts Viper. In fact, the music feels a little strange on record, thinking about how well it could come across at a live show. Anyway, this raw, rough sound gives the music the perfect mood. Working between and alongside so many great musicians, the band are capable to create their very own unique sound around Josh Scogin’s powerful voice.

Score: 6,8/10

Notable Tracks: “Without Any Words“, “What More Can I Say”

FFO: Nirvana, The Chariot, Closure In Moscow

Make sure to follow ’68 on Facebook. They are currently touring Europe with Listener, so don’t miss out on that!

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