Austin’s Total Abuse is a band at odds with itself, tearing at its contradictions and anxieties to a mean and fruitful end. Tight punk structures clash with freeform noise sets; intelligent language loses meaning in the distortion of Krakatoan decibel levels; and the power of tradition crashes against the power of transformative energy.
“When we began, we all talked about our connection to the raw power of American hardcore,” says Total Abuse frontman Rusty Kelley. “We wanted to take the best parts of Black Flag, all eras of it, and introduce it to the other things that we love, like noise, ’80s industrial and power electronics.
“But I think no matter what, it’s all about writing really good songs,” says Kelley, who recently revived the band from a two-year lull. Formed first in 2006, Total Abuse put out three vicious recordings in five years, calling for a hiatus in 2011 when Kelley’s heroin addiction became an opioid black hole, shutting down the quintet until 2013.
“When I got myself back on track, I took a year for myself without playing,” says Kelley. “After I’d been sober for a year, we talked about trying it back out. I think last year, when we decided to start the band back up, we were all in a good creative headspace.”
From that collective groove emerged Looking for Love, a three-track EP of sludge joints and brooding noise. On the title track, Kelley repeats the headline on loop as the drums drudge slightly, intentionally, behind the beat and the guitar sounds like it’s trying to tune into some white static on the FM band. All together, the effect is solitary, nail-bitten and anxious.
“I think it’s always been about putting our anxieties onstage,” says Kelley. “It’s outside the traditional hardcore song of ‘you screwed me over, you stabbed me in the back.’ With each record it’s been a different aspect I’ve been trying to figure out within myself, whether it’s my obsessions, or trying to understand sexuality or drug addiction or whatever. It walks a fine line between writing the best songs that we can and expressing everything that is real to ourselves.”
8pm Fri, Sept 19
The Mattress Factory
1903 S St. Mary’s
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