Throwaway Style: The Evolution of Powerbleeder

Throwaway Style, Local Music
Martin Douglas

For all their forays into eclectic, madcap experimental-pop music, what could be Powerbleeder’s best song could very well be their most formalist piece of musicianship. “Donnie Wants You Dead” is a classic pop song in every sense of the word -- melody, structure, and length -- and it’s very indicative from the jump off point, from the title even, it’s a sterling document of our times.

From the song’s titular figurehead (guess who?) to today’s climate of outright hostility scribbled in the margins of David Plell’s notebook, the tune confidently carries on the longstanding pop tradition of couching some very real turmoil bundled in a bubble gum wrapper. There are few political statements as incisive, as poetically accurate as, “You sent a bedbug to the White House overnight.”

This streamlined approach to songcraft is quite a leap for the same band who recorded and released L i m b o  in late 2015, where Powerbleeder emphasized the notion of being a “kitchen sink” band. All sorts of stuff goes on in the throes of L i m b o -- wild and interchangeable song structures, ukuleles, trash can drums, lovelorn ballads about following someone to Georgia, passionate singing about a grilled cheese sandwich. Plell’s voice is an instrument to behold here, reaching a variety of tones and textures (a syrupy croon, a coarse wail, a flutter up and down the vocal scale).

L i m b o is the sound of dozens of somewhat disparate bands having their DNA spliced together and presented as collage. For all its charms, it’s a very, very busy EP.

Photo by Trevor Crump


Compare and contrast this approach to G u s h opener “He’s an Imagined Idea,” a multi-movement piece resplendent with blooming instrumentation (a guitar line slinking around, cosmic synths tucked into small portions of space) and Plell’s sonorous voice singing, “Something’s coming out in me / Something I’ve suppressed for a long, long time.” Whereas L i m b o was a release content to throw every color at you at once to determine the palate, G u s h from the start paints everything carefully.

Which is not to say the high-energy songwriting is missing from this updated version of Powerbleeder; “Ganko!” charges and stops and starts in a way that’s just as wild as anything on L i m b o, it’s just presented less like brightly colored mania. “Soft on Cops” is even more measured, as the slightly-above-coasting chase scene in a surf movie, heavy on the lyrical themes of anxiety over the state of the world. “This Ur Face?” is a romp into blue-eyed funk territory, littered with the increasingly constant bombardment of facial recognition software and account security questions.

The word “maturity” is an often overused term when it comes to evaluating music; the word usually applies to bands for which maturation is a foregone conclusion. Powerbleeder, led by Plell’s near-singular songwriting, has been a phenomenally talented group in terms of musicianship since their inception. G u s h provides them the opportunity to showcase the things they can do without showing it all simultaneously, an appropriate course of action for such a normally whimsical band.

Sometimes the most unpredictable thing you can do is take the most logical step forward.

New and News

Crybaby Studios Launches Crybaby Music Grant

Capitol Hill's Crybaby Studios recently announced they will be launching a quarterly program to offer a grant for twenty-four hour access to their recording and rehersal space for three months. May 1st is the application deadline for this cycle, which will run from June 1st to August 31st, and will be decided upon by a committee which includes our very own Sharlese Metcalf. You can read all about the grant and apply for it here.

Live and Loud: This Week's Recommended Shows

April 6: Monsterwatch, Dead Bars, and Salt Lick at Barboza

April 7: Kelli Schaefer, Hotels, and Von Wildenhaus at the High Dive

April 7: The Soft Moon, Boy Harsher, and Missions at the Crocodile

April 8: Yamantaka // Sonic Titan, Familiars, and STAHV at the Vera Project

April 9: Wild Powwers, Prism Tats, Wild Ferns at Sunset Tavern

April 10: Albert Hammond Jr. and Pinky Pinky at the Crocodile


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