When I think about the bands that have played an active role in shaping my musical identity, I always come back to Tenement. A band that’s constantly made their way on their own terms with unbridled tenacity. Perfectly representative of the upper Midwest, historically inclined towards classic literature and tirelessly committed to the kind of musical exploration that buries genre tags with ease. Willfully imperfect, ridiculously determined, incredibly thoughtful, and unfailingly kind, they distilled a greater understanding and appreciation in me of not just music but my state (and, even more specifically, my hometown). Over the course of eight years, I’ve seen them play countless sets, been fortunate enough to play with them a handful of times, filmed every set I could possibly manage, booked them at every available opportunity, and sang their praises as loudly as I could to whoever would listen.
The band’s come a long way in that time, maintaining their ethos even as their popularity progressively accelerated. Over the past few months alone, they’ve released Predatory Headlights a record that sparked an uptick in a national conversation about both DIY punk and double albums, were the focus piece of two New York Times posts, and completed a US tour. Now, as frequently happens with the band, they’re unleashing even more new material in the form of “Vultures”, a characteristically scrappy inclusion on Not Normal Tapes‘ forthcoming Bughouse I mixtape, a mix that features live, rare, unreleased, and alternate tracks from a laundry list of great artists (including site favorites Negative Scanner).
“Vultures” exists squarely in Tenement’s home recording mold, a setting that’s frequently lent a great amount of character to a large handful of Tenement songs (“Dreaming Out Loud“, “Books On Hell + Sermons On T.V.“, “Paper Airplanes“, “Blammo“, the demos of “Wouldn’t Let You Go” and Napalm Dream, the entirety of The Blind Wink, etc.). It retains all of the grit and energy that helped make them one of the most celebrated acts in punk while still managing to present the band as an act determined to keep pushing themselves forward. Guitarist/vocalist Amos Pitsch still has a keen eye for the mundane and presents it with the flair of an accomplished novelist. “It doesn’t pay for vultures to make friends, they’ll be ripping you apart in the end” warns the chorus, a bleak, matter-of-fact moment in deceptively peppy trappings.
Even with a sentiment that downtrodden, the song- as all the best Tenement songs tend to- comes across as both lived-in and affirming. In under two minutes the band cranks out a cautionary tale that’s laced with enough propulsive drive that it feels even shorter. Even in that runtime, the band manages to marry droll observations with layered falsettos, a genuinely incredible whispered vocal figure, and a few strong dynamic shifts. Smart, bruising, ridiculously catchy, and typically down-to-earth, it’s the exact kind of song that led me to proclaim Tenement as my favorite band. It’s also worth nothing that this is a song the trio shelved. Most bands would kill to have a song like this at their disposal, for Tenement, it’s just another song. For me, it’s yet another reason to celebrate one of today’s best bands. Don’t let this one fall to the wayside.
Listen to “Vultures” below and keep an eye on Not Normal Tapes’ bandcamp for further updates leading up to Bughouse I‘s August 19 release.