NUM5221
Album cover

Current

Current - Starvation and Grief

Nearly a decade before emo became a Billboard chart phenomenon, it sprouted around the U.S. thanks to an informal touring network established through expensive long-distance phone calls, handwritten letters, and some assistance from an annual DIY touring resource guide published by Maximumrocknroll called Book Your Own Fucking Life. It was one thing to release your own music and play some shows in the neighborhood; it was entirely different thing to hit the road for a couple months with musicians you’d only ever known from the ads they placed in a zine in order for some lonely punk in a far-off town to hear what you had to say. That’s exactly what Current did not even a year into their existence, a move that legitimized the newly emergent hardcore scene in their native Detroit to likeminded communities in Little Rock, Arkansas and Oakland, California. Sure, the arduous summer-long trek caused some internal bruises, and guitarist Justin LaBo bailed on Michigan for a short stint after the tour came to an end, but once Current regrouped they, too, sounded stronger than before.


Less than a month before what would be their final tour, Current entered Woodshed Studios in the Detroit suburb of Ferndale for a session equal parts focused and feral. Partially posthumously released in 1995 as Is 4, the material on Starvation and Grief cleaved to a newfound heaviness only hinted at in the band’s loudest of loud passages of yore. The bellicose direction emerged in part from a reactionary MRR review that posited Current as milquetoast as prog-rock; in response, Current partnered with vocalist Jeff Rice to form Ottawa, whose brutish, eviscerating hardcore won over several MRR contributors and helped set the tone for future Council Records releases. That included Current’s final recordings; at the noisiest moments, LaBo’s cantankerous, distorted guitars claw at every other sound nearby, and on “Continued Rantings” Weeks’s caturwauling sprays outward with an almost defensive posture. The tension was intentional, and Current’s members knew how to push and pull at each other while retaining a cohesion beyond Andy Albus providing a sense of melodic security with his melodically understated, stoic bass. It took skill, focus, and a giddy energy to make the sugar-high angst of “Repetition” feel like it could go off the rails at any moment while maintaining its anthemic shape so clearly. Current were capable, even if the writing was on the wall. For the strange nexus of post-hardcore they existed in would not sound much like Current in just a few years, but emo would not be what it became without Current.